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Ethics & Religion
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October 30, 2014
Impact of Marriage on Income
By Mike McManus
There has been a retreat of marriage in America. In 1980 78% of families were headed by married parents – but only 66% in 2012.
“The growth in median income of families with children would be 44% higher if the United States enjoyed 1980 levels of married parenthood today,” reports an important new study, “For Richer, For Poorer: How Family Structures Economic Success in America.”
Here is the reason average income in America has declined. Fewer are marrying.
However, there is important good news for couples who do marry: “Men and women who are currently married and were raised by an intact family enjoy an annual `family premium’ in their household income that exceeds that of their unmarried peers raised in non-intact families by at least $42,000,” said the report written by W. Bradford Wilcox and Robert Lerman.
To put that more simply: couples who marry will earn $42,000 more than those who cohabit or remain single.
Good news for parents of young adults and pastors!
What’s more, the economic advantages of being married “apply as much to blacks and Hispanics as they do to whites.” For example, average men who marry enjoy a $15.900 “marriage premium,” while blacks enjoy at least a $12,500 premium and men with only a high school degree or less get a $17,000 income boost compared to their single peers.
Unfortunately, however, most who marry are the well-educated with higher incomes. Those with less education and income are the least likely to marry.
Therefore, the decline of marriage accounts for as much as 41% of the growth in family income inequality from 1976 to 2000. Single parenthood has soared in recent years. Why?
Men without college degrees have experienced a decline in real income and relative to women’s wages. These men have become “less marriageable.” That has made marriage less attractive to women. Unmarried mothers can not only earn good wages, but get government subsidies such as Medicaid and food stamps.
The percentage of teenagers living with married parents fell from three-quarters in the late 1970s to slightly more than half in 1997. Teens without both parents are more apt to get pregnant or become delinquent.
Marriage fosters maturity in men, self-control and success. As George Akerlof, author of “Men Without Children,” put it memorably, “Men settle down when they get married. If they fail to get married they fail to settle down.”
Married men work 441 more hours per year than their single peers. That’s one reason they earn more. For those aged 44-46 their family income is $44,350 more than unmarried men.
Furthermore, “Marriage gains in economic outcomes are higher for the less educated and for African Americans,” the report asserted.
Even those who did not grow up with married parents, but who marry “do about as well or almost as well as their peers who enjoyed a stable family upbringing.”
However, growing up with both parents increases one’s odds of becoming highly educated, “which in turn leads to higher odds of being married. Both the added education and marriage results in higher income levels.”
Conversely, the retreat from marriage by less educated, lower income Americans is the primary reason ordinary American families have experienced declining economic fortunes.
What can be done to rebuild marriage in America?
Brad Wilcox, who directs the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia and Robert Lerman of the Urban Institute – offer these suggestions:
First, halt federal and state financial penalties of marriage. Unmarried women with children have government subsidies equal to a spouse working full-time at $11 an hour. But if a cohabiting couple marries, she loses those benefits. To encourage marriage, benefits might not be cut for three years.
Second, they propose expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit for men without children to $1,000 to increase their incentive to work. And the child tax credit “should be expanded from $1,000 to $3,000.”
Third, they argue that government devotes disproportionate subsidies for college that are attended by only 35% of young adults. Why not expand vocational education and apprenticeships to give other young people skills, confidence and opportunity?
Finally, there needs to be a national campaign to promote the “success sequence,” to finish education, get a job, get married and then have children, in that order. Such a campaign could be modeled on the campaign to prevent teen pregnancy that cut teen births by 50%. Similar campaigns to reduce drunk driving and smoking were also successful.
“For Richer, for Poorer” is packed with fresh analysis and suggestions.
Copyright © 2014 Michael J. McManus, President of Marriage Savers and a syndicated columnist.
Mike McManus is President of Marriage Savers
and a syndicated columnist, writing Ethics & Religion weekly
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Welcome to this week’s UK Marriage News
· Leading relationship charities call for all public servants to be trained in relationship support awareness
· How Do Important Relationship Events Impact Our Well-Being?
· Marriage or ‘Miserable Minimalism’!
Government and Political
· Leading relationship charities call for all public servants to be trained in relationship support awareness
Leading relationship charities are calling on all political parties to put good-quality couple, family and social relationships centre stage in policy making in the run up to the General Election. The Relationships Alliance, made up of Relate, One Plus One, Marriage Care and the Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships, has today published its Relationships Manifesto, which includes a call for all frontline practitioners delivering public services to be given relationship support awareness training.
The Relationships Alliance will launch its 12 policy recommendations in The Relationships Manifesto: Strengthening Relationships to an audience of MPs, civil servants and other charities at a reception in the House of Commons later on today. As well as making recommendations, the Manifesto identifies three main barriers which prevent people from strengthening their relationships: cultural barriers, (including the perceived stigma around seeking help for relationships); financial barriers; and systemic barriers (including a lack of knowledge about the importance of relationships or how to access relationship support). All the recommendations in the Manifesto aim to tackle these barriers in order to improve the nation’s relationships.
Among other recommendations, the Manifesto also calls for Family and Relationship Centres to be set up in the UK as they have been in Australia, as well as setting up a £5 million ‘Strengthening Relationships’ fund, which will allow local authorities to develop and extend
relationship support at the local level. The Alliance is also seeking to make Relationships and Sex Education a compulsory part of the National Curriculum, which would be taught by relationship experts.
Ruth Sutherland, Chair of the Relationships Alliance and Chief Executive of Relate, said: “The Relationships Manifesto is a great starting point for policy makers to really put relationships at the heart of policy making. Couple, family, social and community relationships are crucial to most of us, yet public policy often overlooks or even undermines them.
“Making all frontline public service staff aware of the importance of relationships will ensure that crucial community figures are able to spot those in need and signpost them to expert help.”
Susanna Abse, Chief Executive of the Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships, who will be presenting the Manifesto at its launch, said: “This is a simple way to prioritise relationships without adding extra budget or burden to public sector workers.
“Strong and healthy relationships are the basis of a thriving society: they see individuals, families and communities through good times and bad, so it is absolutely crucial that the role they play in our lives is adequately recognised in public policy come the Election.”
As well as the call to increase awareness of relationship support for public servants, the Relationships Alliance is also calling for the following policies:
· A cabinet level Minister for Families and Relationships with a dedicated Whitehall department.
· All children and young people should have access to Relationships and Sex Education, which should be a compulsory part of the national curriculum and taught by experts.
· Family and Relationship Centres should be piloted in the UK, as they have been in Australia.
· Central government should launch a £5 million “Strengthening Relationships Fund” to engage local authorities to develop and extend relationship support at the local level.
· Central and local government should ensure that services designed to help at life transition points include a focus on couple, family and social relationships.
· Central government should match-fund 10% of the cost of the transferable tax allowance for married couples and civil partners on an annual basis and invest it in strengthening couple, family and social relationships.
· The Department of Health should expand the delivery of couple therapy for depression within the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme.
· Relationship education should be incentivised through local government waiving the marriage notices of £35-per-person (£70 per couple) fee.
· The Cabinet Office should expand its What Works Network to include a What Works Centre for Families and Relationships.
· Directors of Public Health should be required to measure the quality and stability of couple, family and social relationships to inform policy and commissioning by local authorities and clinical commissioning groups.
· The expanded Troubled Families programme should include a focus on supporting and measuring the quality and stability of couple, family and social relationships.
· Parental involvement provision comes into effect on 22nd October
The importance of children having relationships with each parent following family breakdown will be reinforced by a new law taking effect next week, Family Justice minister Simon Hughes has said says Family Law Week.
The parental involvement provision in section 11 of the Children and Families Act 2014 will come into force on 22 October and will apply to cases started on or after that date. It will not apply to cases already going through the courts prior to 22 October.
The Ministry of Justice has been at pains to emphasise that the parental involvement provision is not about giving parents new 'rights' or the 50/50 division of children's time but about 'achieving a culture change by making clearer the court's approach to these issues'.
The change is intended to encourage parents to be more focused on children's needs following separation and the role they each play in the child's life. The new law will require family courts to presume that each parent's involvement in the child's life will further their welfare – where it is safe. However the needs of the child will always remain the paramount priority of the courts.
Justice Minister Simon Hughes said: "We have made bold reforms so that the welfare of children is at the heart of the family justice system, and there can be no doubt that parents play a very important role in every child's life. Following break up of relationships we are encouraging all parents to focus on the needs of the child rather than what they want for themselves. No parent should be excluded from their child's life for no good reason. This change in the law is not about giving parents new 'rights' but makes clear to parents and everybody else that the family courts will presume that each parent will play a role in the future life of their child."
Children and Families Minister, Edward Timpson: "Having spent almost ten years as a family barrister, I know nothing is more important than taking the time to listen to children and making sure their voices are heard loud and clear. This is a brand new system which puts the needs of children first, protects families from harmful and stressful battles in the courtroom and gives them greater support."
· Fewer than one in four couples seeking counselling to save marriage
A new survey has revealed that fewer than one in four couples seeks professional counselling to try to save their marriage when they are going through a difficult time in their relationship reports Family Law Week.
Research by the Family and Divorce Law team at Irwin Mitchell Solicitors, which has offices across the country, found that while 37% of couples going through a rocky patch said they thought counselling would help, only 23% were actively seeking help. The survey of 2,000 people also revealed that on average couples sought counselling for four months with 12% saying it helped to save their marriage. However the statistics also showed that gender played a part in the difference in attitudes to counselling with 45% of females believing that it would help save a relationship compared with just 28% of men.
Both men and women agreed that they would confide in their best friend first regarding their relationship (33%) with 23% saying they turned to their mum for advice. Worryingly, 35% said they confided in no one – rising to 40% of men.
Last month the Prime Minister announced a rise in funding available for ante-natal counselling to £20m. This support will include relationship advice on the potential stresses of having children and health visitors will be asked to offer relationship support to new parents.
The Irwin Mitchell report also gave insight as to how hard couples are prepared to fight to save their marriage with 75% believing that people give up on relationships too easily and couples believing that they should try to save the relationship for at least 11 months on average.
Lack of communication was the biggest driver in break-down of marriages (40%) while 25% said that money worries and taking each other for granted were major issues.
Alison Hawes, a Partner in the Family and Divorce Law team at Irwin Mitchell said: "The survey suggests that people are looking to friends and family to help them get through a separation or divorce but there are other experts who may be able to help. There are differences between attitudes to counselling from both men and women which could mean that it is important that counsellors can get both partners on side quickly when trying to help. We know from experience that counselling can help people going through a difficult period but perhaps there is a stigma attached that people are struggling to overcome. People may also feel that deep down counselling may be the final proof that their relationship is finally over and they may be putting it off on that basis. Good counsellors will be able to help couples to come to terms with what is best for both partners. Seeking professional help about something so sensitive and personal can feel like admitting failure but instead it should be seen as a positive sign to each other that you are committed to getting the best possible support."
· Sir James Munby urges changes to private law cases
The President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, has questioned whether divorce should remain subject to judicial supervision reports Family Law Week. In a speech at the Legal Wales Conference in Bangor he asked whether it was now appropriate to legislate to remove all concepts of fault as a basis for divorce so that irretrievable breakdown would be the sole ground (presumably without the five facts which constitute the reasons for divorce). This, he conjectured, might lead to separating the process of divorce from that of adjudicating claims for financial relief following divorce.
Sir James said that the child arrangement programme and the fact that parties will no longer be represented in the majority of cases demand a new approach to private law cases.
For more details of the President's speech, which considered other reforms of family law, see the report in The Law Society's Gazette.
· How Do Important Relationship Events Impact Our Well-Being?
Perhaps no life events fill us with more joy or sadness than those that involve important relationship partners. Whether we are committing to lifelong partnerships with someone we love, bringing a new addition to the family, leaving a bad relationship, or losing a loved one, relationship events may have different effects on how satisfied and happy we are with our lives says Science of Relationships.
How do important relationship events impact our well-being over time? In a recent meta-analysis (a research paper that combines results from similar studies), researchers examined this very question. Specifically, they studied how our cognitive and emotional well-being change over time in response to four important life events: marriage, divorce, bereavement, and the birth of a child.1
Cognitive well-being is an evaluation of how satisfied you are with your life, or in a particular domain of your life, whereas emotional well-being refers to positive emotional experiences in the absence of negative emotions. The distinction between these two types of well-being is important, given that they may not always match up perfectly (i.e., you could be happy in one domain but not the other). For instance, if you’ve ever felt that things in your life were going well overall, but still felt unhappy, you’ve experienced differences in the way you thought about your life as compared to how you felt about it.
Thus, how satisfied we are with our lives is not always aligned with how we feel emotionally, and understanding both of these components is essential to fully understanding how relationship events impact our well-being. So how do our cognitive and emotional well-being change in the short- and long-term in response to important relationship events? Here’s what we know:1
After people get married, emotional well-being doesn’t change very much from before marriage. However, marriage does have an important impact on cognitive well-being—in both how generally satisfied people are with their lives as well as in their relationships. Thus, getting married increases people’s life satisfaction, but not relationship satisfaction shortly after marriage, but both life and marital satisfaction decline over time, returning to baseline levels of satisfaction. These changes were consistent for both men and women and couples who married when they were older experienced greater increases in well-being upon getting married.
The long-term impact of divorce indicates people tend to experience mild drops in satisfaction with life immediately after a divorce. However, satisfaction with life then increases over time after these initial declines. Within this meta-analysis, there were few longitudinal studies that were identified that measured satisfaction with life in particular, but other research has indicated that divorce is associated with declines on other measures of well-being, including increased depression, decreased global happiness, and decreased purpose in life.2
Bereavement is one of life’s most negative events, and the results of the meta-analysis indicate this is true in both the short- and the long-term on both aspects of well-being. Losing a spouse is tied to extremely strong drops in both life satisfaction and emotional well-being. However, over time, both life satisfaction and emotional well-being increase. Specifically, increases in well-being do occur after bereavement, but these increases occur more slowly compared to adaptation seen in other relational events. Additionally, drops in well-being tend to be sharper for people who are older when losing a spouse, and men’s well-being recovers slower than women’s after bereavement.
The birth of a child has very divergent effects on people’s sense of emotional and cognitive well-being. After giving birth to a child, life satisfaction, but not relationship satisfaction, increases in the short-term. However, both life and relationship satisfaction decrease over time, with greater declines seen in relationship satisfaction relative to life satisfaction (likely because the addition of a child detracts from time romantic partners can spend together). In contrast, the birth of a child positively impacts emotional well-being over time after childbirth. These changes in well-being were consistent for both men and women and tended to be more positive for parents who were relatively older when having a child.
What we see across these relational events is that, despite the fact that people experience changes in well-being in the short-term, people also tend to adapt over time to these major life events, with changes in cognitive and emotional well-being changing in response to important events but often returning to original—or close to original—levels over time.
Additionally, these findings may help us understand what we may do in anticipation of or as a consequence of variation in our well-being surrounding important relationship events. For instance, as the honeymoon phase begins to drop after marriage, couples may engage in self-expanding activities to keep the romance alive in their relationships (read more here and here). Parents who experience declines in life satisfaction after the birth of a child may recognize the emotional joy that parenthood brings. In times of divorce or bereavement, people may seek social support from close friends and family to buffer the negative effects of well-being in these difficult times. Lastly, in times of drops of well-being due to relational events, people may also find solace in knowing that returning to relatively greater well-being may just be a function of time.
· Trying to account for the Marriage Premium
Researchers are continually awed by the concept of the marriage premium—the wage increase that occurs after marriage, particularly for men. Most cite “specialization” as the likely cause reports Maybeido. When a couple marries, the individual partners divide duties in such a way as to increase the wife’s share of household duties, thus allowing the husband more time for paid labour. Alexandra Killewald and Margaret Gough, researchers from Harvard, seek to study the marriage premium more rigorously. Specifically, they hypothesize that if specialization is indeed the reason that men tend to earn more after marriage, specialization should also cause women to earn less.
Using data from the 1979-2008 waves of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, the researchers used fixed-effects models that control for selection and test the data in various ways. One model estimates the “total relationship between family status change and wages,” the so-called Total Effect. The second controls for time-use specialization (hours worked and labour market experience) so as to study the “mediating role of employment hours.” The third model “tests the mediating role of job traits and tenure,” thus “further narrowing the gender gap in the marriage premium.”
The data indicate that for men, specialization does indeed explain wage increases, but not entirely: “Changes in men’s employment hours, job traits, and tenure associated with marriage and married fatherhood explain a portion of these wage gains.” The researchers highlight that although specialization at least partly explains the effect on men’s wages, it does not at all account for the changes in women’s wages: “Marriage and cohabitation are associated with wage gains for childless women, not wage losses as predicted by specialization. . . . Furthermore, if anything, marriage alters women’s employment hours, job traits, and tenure in ways beneficial to their wages.”
Killewald and Gough conclude by calling for further research, as specialization does not, in fact, entirely explain the marriage premium, particularly for women. They speculate that men may earn more than women at marriage because “transitions to marriage and married parenthood may encourage men’s sense of responsibility,” whereas “single women already possess these positive traits or because gendered norms of family behaviour place less emphasis on financial providership for women.” Whatever the reason, the results are clear: Marriage is related to an increase in income, for both husbands and wives.
· Couples who met online three times more likely to divorce
Married couples who met online are three times more likely to divorce than those who met face-to-face, a study has found says the Telegraph. Online daters are also 28 per cent more likely to split from their partners within the first year, new figures from Michigan State University in the US suggest. A study of more than 4,000 couples found that relationships were far more stable if couples met in traditional ways such as introductions by friends or through work, hobbies or socialising.
Couples who meet online are also less likely to get married and generally have a poorer relationship quality that those who met offline. “Even though a large percentage of marriages in recent years have resulted from couples meeting online, looking for partners online may potentially suppress the desire for getting married,” said report author Dr Aditi Paul. “Furthermore the break-up rates for both marital and non-marital romantic relationship were found to be higher for couples who met online that couples who met through offline venues.”
The findings contradict a report from the University of Chicago which suggested that online relationships were stronger. That study was funded by the dating site eHarmony. In Britain around 20 per cent of heterosexual couples met online and 70 per cent of homosexual couples. And the trend shows no signs of slowing with sites becoming ever more specialised. Couples who want to be matched by their music tastes can now logon to Tastebuds, while Jewish singles can try JDate and those who just want their partner in uniform can try UniformDating.com.
Although sites such as eHarmony claim to have algorithms to match research from the Association of Psychological Science suggested there was little scientific merit in programmes. And they prevent opposites attracting. And the paper warned that browsing too many profiles “fosters judgemental and assessment-oriented evaluations that can cognitively overwhelm users.” Another study has found that one third of pictures were misleading.
Match.com CEO Sam Yagan has claimed that dating cycles are shorter online because people are more willing to leave unsatisfying relationships more early because they know they can quickly find somebody new to date. But the new research from Michican suggests that 86 per cent of online daters were concerned that profiles contained false information suggesting that trust may have been damaged at an early stage in the relationship.
The study was published in the online journal Cyberpsychology, Behaviour, and Social Networking.
· The Military and Marriage
There has been a lot of discussion in the last few weeks about the declining marriage rates among young adults in the United States says Family Studies. According to a recent Pew Research report, a record number of adults in the United States—1 in five adults age 25 and older—have never been married. Harry Benson has argued on this blog that the trends are much the same in the U.K. Philip Cohen has argued that the downward trend is, in fact, global.
But there does seem to be at least one group of young adults who are bucking the trend: The U.S. military is still characterized by high—and early—marriage rates. According to one study, military men are slightly more likely to be married than civilian men and junior enlistees are “nearly twice as likely to be married as civilians aged eighteen to twenty-four years.” Comparing the military sample of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY79) with selected women from civilian samples from 1979 to 1984, Jennifer Lundquist and Herbert Smith found that young female enlistees continually had higher marriage rates than their civilian counterparts.
What accounts for the difference?
According to a recently published narrative study by Jennifer Lundquist and Zhun Xu, there are three structural elements of military life that act as marriage catalysts: War-zone deployment, relocation assignments, and the institutional support and socioeconomic stability of the military.
War Zone Deployment
In their interviews Lundquist and Xu found that “military marriages sometimes occur in response to imminent war separation.” Respondents described marriage in a deployment situation as providing a layer of security and stability. Marriage gives soldiers someone to come home to and a way to remain emotionally connected to their partners. It gave spouses at home the security of knowing their family would be taken care of should their partner die on deployment. As one respondent explained, “It was the best option to take care of my daughter and myself.”
The most common marriage catalyst, Lundquist and Xu found, was a permanent change of station (PCS). Service members can face relocation every 2–3 years. “Whether married, single, or a dependent,” Lundquist and Xu found that “relocation loomed large as an anticipated event in the lives of each of the interviewees. It was described as a distinct turning point in the life course of a romantic relationship when couples were forced to make a decision.” If a couple marries, the military will pay the relocation cost for the spouse and other family members. If a couple chooses not to wed, they face permanent separation. PCS effectively stamps a “sell by” date on romantic relationships. As one respondent told the interviewers: “[Marriage] is a way to save their relationship . . . because, no matter what [Military Occupational Specialty] or position, it’s impossible to have a stable relationship.”
Socioeconomic Stability and Institutional Support
Lundquist and Xu found that the servicemen and women they interviewed favourably compared their own socioeconomic situation favourably to that of their civilian peers. The military provides a steady income, good benefits, and job training. Economic stability “emerged as a major undercurrent” in each of Lundquiest and Xu’s interviews.
Marriage, Lundquist and Xu argue, has also been made “deliberately compatible” with military life. As noted, the military will pay the full relocation cost for each member of a service member’s family. Doing so provides a “crucial way for the military to ensure a portable support system for its employees.” The military also provides “family health coverage, housing, day care services, [and] schooling systems.” The military also provides direct support for married couples. As one respondent explained:
Once a month, there’s a marriage retreat . . . You have to go through counselling, but you get free lodging at the Army resort, get to see the Alps. It’s like a free vacation. . . . Outside the military, you have to pay for that stuff, to go see a counsellor. . . . The military has a lot of things in place for it.
This institutional support for marriage is not disinterested. As Lundquist and Xu note, the family members of servicemen and women are also enlisted in service: They provide emotional support and caretaking labour that the military would be hard pressed to supply, they help reintegrate servicemen and women into civilian life, and they provide care for injured veterans. (In the United States 5.5 million individuals provide unpaid care for family members who are current or former military employees.)
Comparing marriage in the military to marriage in civilian life may seem like comparing apples to oranges. As Lundquist and Xu note, “our main application to civilian trends is one of contrast, not similarity. In the highly individualistic, market-driven policy context of the United States, the transition to adulthood has been very weakly supported by the state.”
But I think Lundquist and Xu’s interviews bring out an important point about marriage in general: The military men and women they interviewed, for the most part, did not choose to marry for the sake of the benefits the military would provide them for doing so. Rather, marriage, the respondents reported, provided benefits the military could not supply: emotional support, personal care, something to live for, constancy in a life that is constant change. Marriage seems to be a unique good. But the material benefits and support network that the military provided made it possible for the respondents to choose this unique good.
New Books, Resources and materials
· Therapy With Men After Sixty
[Picked this one up from Smartmarriages, so this is Diane’s review, not ours. Ed]
I am excited about this new book by Barry McCarthy who was consistently one of the most highly rated presenters at the Smart Marriages Conference where he shared his expertise on sex. I still recommend the recordings of his presentations, most especially of Marital Sex As It Ought To Be, the session I think we should all listen to once a year, just to be reminded — and to prevent monotony on long trips (pun intended) http://www.playbacknow.com/750-807 . Barry has written more than 20 great books, including Discovering Your Couple Sexual Style (recipient of the Smart Marriages Impact Award http://tinyurl.com/qf9b4oy ) and Rekindling Desire: A Step-by-Step Program to Help Low-Sex and No-Sex Marriages plus several focused on male sexuality (whole books dealing with premature ejaculation or with erectile dysfunction) - but it will be interesting to see what he offers to help men deal with all the aspects of aging. He says he has written this for helping professionals but also for men to read themselves. (I would also assume the women in their lives might find it interesting.)
Here is the book blurb: Therapy with Men after Sixty is a breakthrough book for professionals that helps them open their clients’ minds to new ways of thinking, behaving, and feeling about the aging process. The authors adopt a realistic but optimistic tone as they carefully examine the psychological, relational, and sexual aspects of life after 60, while also dispelling common myths. Topics addressed include how to build and maintain Psychological Well Being, have quality relationships, build self-esteem, and deal with crisis and loss. Practical topics, such as financial issues, living situations, and relationships with adult children and grandchildren are addressed through guidelines, skill exercises, and case studies. Each chapter helps mental health professionals to account for individual, couple, cultural, and value differences, making this an unparalleled resource for helping men successfully meet the challenges of aging.
Forthcoming conferences and events
· Forthcoming conferences
Details of all forthcoming conferences can always be found under our listing at 2-in-2-1
· Study day to explore Catholic-Muslim marriages
Marriage between Muslims and Catholics in particular and Christians more broadly is becoming increasingly more common. The issues raised are complex and little appreciated. Bringing together the expertise of theologians, canon lawyers, providers of marriage preparation and pastors, this study day explores the challenges. In association with Marriage Care, the Heythrop Centre for Christianity and Inter-religious Dialogue and the Christian-Muslim Forum.
To be held on Wednesday 19 November 2014, 10.30am – 4pm, at Heythrop College, Kensington Square, London W8 5HN
Consultations and Campaigns
Below is our running list of current and recent consultations and campaigns. New items or those requiring action are highlighted. The Reference numbers are to the newsletter where we covered the subject.
· Marriage or ‘Miserable Minimalism’!
Today sees the publication of the manifesto from the Relationships Alliance – the thoughts of the ‘big four’ in our sector on what a future government of any flavour could do to strengthen family relationships in this country. The fact that this work is also funded by the DfE must also be praised – it makes a change from telling charities they should not lobby or have a political viewpoint!!
The manifesto contains some fairly predictable, but nonetheless welcome items: a department for Families with a cabinet minister, expanding the role of Family Centres per the Australian model (though they have rapidly morphed in to family crisis centres there) and so on. It’s all rather pedestrian, predictable, and safe – there’s nothing very edgy or new.
And there is no mention of marriage! Now let me be clear, the word “marriage” does appear six times in the twelve page manifesto – however four of these are references to the organisation ‘Marriage Care’, and the other two are to their marriage preparation services in the section about what works. Now admittedly they do call for a rebate for couples having a civil marriage ceremony towards the cost of marriage preparation – but that’s about it! Even the list of references at the end has nothing about marriage in it – they have even expunged the research from their pronouncements!!
Let me be clear, I am not saying that marriage is the universal panacea to every aspect of family policy, nor that every “good” that comes from stable families is solely the result of family structure – I am not that naïve!! Of course the mechanisms that hold families together, or break them apart involve processes – but in almost any other context where one is talking about the components of capability (eg business) one would be laughed out of the room for proposing that structure isn’t a component factor. To be honest the absence of mention of marriage must be a deliberate choice – we know there are voices within the alliance who do believe that the lifetime commitments of marriage are an essential foundation for successful processes – to construct a manifesto which leaves out this thinking must have taken positive action!
The recent publications from Scott Stanley and others point to the key importance of planned lives – ones where decisions and commitments happen by decision and intent, rather than being driven by circumstances and whim. A recent blog post from Scott Stanley contains this nugget: “We should continue to try to strengthen and support marriage, which includes figuring out how to counter the cultural trends that push people away from believing what is obvious: that a prior settled commitment between two parents makes a real difference for children.”
Manifestos are about setting out a vision for the future, for signalling intent and direction. I certainly hope that those drafting the manifesto’s for their parties will listen to the advice from Relationship Alliance, but then that they will lift their eyes and grasp the fundamental importance of marriage to society, and will commit themselves to supporting the rights of the as yet unborn generations to have parents who have made a firm and unflinching commitment to be bound together in love for life.
Anything less is miserable minimalism!
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