Family Life is Good for You

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Family Life is Good for You

Marriage and the family continue to weaken in a number of countries. In Canada, close to 1.2 million couples were living in a common-law relationship in 2001, up 20% from 1995, the Globe and Mail newspaper reported July 11, 2002. By contrast, the number of married couples increased just 3%, to 6.4 million from 6.2 million, over the same period.

The figures come from Statistics: Canada's General Social Survey, which collected information on relationship ties, marital splits and new unions.

In 2001, almost 90% of Canadian men and women aged 50 to 69 had started their conjugal life through marriage. But among men and women aged 30 to 39, the study found that fully 40% were expected to choose a common-law relationship as their first union. For women aged 20 to 29, the percentage is estimated to reach 53%.

The appeal of marriage has dropped most significantly in traditionally Catholic Quebec. There, only 26% of women aged 30 to 39 are expected to choose marriage to start their conjugal lives. One-third of women in Quebec had married their common-law partner at the time of the survey, compared with 59% of women in the other provinces.

The Canadian situation mirrors England's situation. On Nov. 26, 2001, the Telegraph revealed that government statistics show that the number of cohabiting couples in England and Wales has reached more than 1.5 million, with four in 10 children now born outside marriage, compared with one in 10 in the 1970s. The number of couples living together is expected to double over the next 20 years.

Ireland too has seen big changes in family structures, the Irish Independent observed May 20, 2002. In 1994, one in every four children was born outside marriage. Now, more than one in every three children is born to single mothers and the rate of first births to unmarried mothers is increasing at 20 times the rate of first births to married women.

The Irish Independent cited a study titled "Family Formation in Ireland" by Helen Russell and Tony Fahey that looked at cases of non-marital births and followed them up five years later. They found that only half the children born outside marriage between 1993-1997 were in a two-parent situation by 1997.
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