CHURCH OF ENGLAND NEWSPAPER on cohabitation, August 18, 2000

Government accused of cover-up on cohabitation

An "official governmental cover-up" has prevented the damaging effects of cohabitation from being heard, according to a report from the Institute for the Study of Civil Society.

"Living together is linked to unemployment, ill-health, domestic violence and poor outcomes for children," the report said, accusing the government and other official bodies from refusing to acknowledge the high risks of cohabiting relationships.

In Marriage-Lite, Patricia Morgan, a family researcher, says that study shows that men and women in cohabiting relationships are more likely to be unfaithful to their partners than married people, women are more likely to be abused, and children are more likely to be abused or killed.

"Cohabiting relationships are fragile. They are always more likely to break up than marriages entered into at the same time, regardless of age or income. They tend to be short-lived, lasting, on average, less than two years," she says.

Government policy is refusing to take this knowledge into consideration in its persistence in encouraging cohabitation as a legitimate alternative to marriage, the report says.

The Lord Chancellor's department has stated its belief that "the growing acceptance of long-term cohabitation as a preliminary or alternative to marriage" means that they "must be at least as stable as marriage." Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, says that we "shouldnt get in a paddy about the decline of formal marriage" and that "the most important thing is the quality of the relationship, not the institution in itself."

Patricia Morgan has taken issue with this. "Institutions, whether marriage or private property, embody and sustain systems of meaning and provide people with reference points that give coherence and continuity to their efforts," she explains.

The Institute's report slammed the government's attempts to strengthen the alternatives to marriage, explaining that it will lead to a weakening of marriage itself. Government actions are undermining "the only institution ever shown to be capable of raising children successfully," according to Mrs Morgan.

Outcomes for children are seriously threatened if they do not have married parents, she continues. "The children of cohabiting couples do less well at school and are more likely to suffer from mental illness than children of married couples.

"They are at significantly higher risk of child abuse. Step-fathers, or 'live-in' and visiting boyfriends, constitute the most powerful risk factor for child maltreatment. They are hugely over-represented as perpetrators of severe physical abuse, sexual abuse and child killing."

The government has been urged to change its position over marriage.

"The official pretence that marriage makes no difference to relationships should be dropped, and education for relationships in schools should emphasise the positive aspects of marriage, treating marriage as a desirable social good rather than one of many equally valid and viable lifestyles", the report recommends.

Comment by Bob Brow :  The statistics given are valid and important, but the solution offered needs clarification. The plain fact is that millions of couples begin their sexual relationship before a legal marriage, and many more enter into a sexual relationship which eventually sets up the common law equivalent of a legal marriage.

What we should preach and teach is that it is entry into a sexual relationship that sets up an incipient marriage, however short.    Paul even views one hour with a prostitute as a rudimentary and quickly aborted marriage (1 Corinthians 5:16). It is not the sacredness of a government recognized document that is important but the sacredness of a sexual connection. It seems to me that our Christian position should be that sex should never be used as a plaything, but as the beginning of a marriage.

And our ideal is that we use sex exclusively to begin a lifelong relationship of mutual submission (1 Corinthians 7:1-16) with our partner.

Focussing on getting the legal document for marriage, as opposed to the sacredness of entering into a sexual relationship continues the confusion we have created.

 model theology home | essays and articles | books | sermons | letters to surfers | comments