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since June 19, 2001


Families in the post-modern society —
and the media trends relating to them

(1998 06 23 --WHS)

The number of pro-family & pro-father articles in the media appears to be increasing.  One of these was "Give Dads Their Parental Due" (San Francisco Chronicle, Friday, June 19, 1998, p A23, apparently by Sylvia Ann Hewlett and Cornel West, authors of a new book "The War Against Parents" (Houghton Mifflin, 1998).  Another one is "The Divorced Dad's Burden" By Gail Sheehy, in the New York Times, Op-Ed Column, June 21, 1998.

There were quite a few more during the past few days; no doubt on account of the Father's Day weekend.  However,  the frequency, quality and objectivity of these types of articles is increasing, and, most of all, they are appearing more and more in the main-stream press.  Let's hope that this trend continues.  If it does, we'll be able to turn the ship around.

The Heritage Foundation's President, Dr. Edwin Feulner, Jr. wrote an article What Stay-At-Home Moms Do in response to comments by US Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn.  Edwin Feulner explains to Sen. Dodd what the reality of life is for stay-at-home-moms in a society that is bent on penalizing and families and states that Sen. Dodd has much to learn about kids and the mothers who care for them.  Sen. Dodd had stated that stay-at-home moms are self-pampering socialites with a yen to "play golf or go to the club and play cards."

The Alberta Report's cover story of their June 22, 1998 issue is "Shacking UP and Breaking DOWN -- Common-law marriage and break-up are booming, and so is a host of related ills." by Candis Mclean (page 28).  No doubt, in about a week's time, that story will be posted on the AR's web site http://albertareport.com  (cover stories appear to always make it into their electronic edition).  Make yourself a note to look up the story.  It's worth it.  To make sure that this article isn't overlooked, I have condensed it in the following:

Shacking UP
Breaking DOWN
Common-law marriage
and break-up are
booming, and so
is a host of related
social ills.

Condensed from an article by Candis Mclean (Alberta Report, June 22, 1998, page 28)

Common-law marriages are nothing new, they happened even in Jesus' time, as the Bible relates about the women who was married five times, whom Jesus met at Jacob's well and who was then living with a man who wasn't her husband.  What is new is the large number of people who live in common-law relationships and that society has resigned itself to accept these relationship.  The social stigma appears to have vanished, and even Dr. Laura now calls such relationships simply "shacking up."
    The consequences of divorce and separation are a number of social ills that affect mostly our children.  Nowhere are these consequence more prevalent than with children from common-law relationships.
    StatCan reported the percentages of children 10 years old who saw their parents separate:

  • Children who lived with two married biological parents 14%
  • Children who lived with two parents who got married after cohabitation 26%
  • Children who lived with common-law parents 63%

    StatCan also noted that the age of children whose parents separate is constantly dropping.  91% of children are born into families with two parents, but fully one fifth of those are living common-law.  The number of common-law "marriages" has more than doubled over the past two decades, from 6% in 1981 to 14% in 1995.  Not only that, but the rate of increase is accelerating.  It has become an escalating cycle: women whose parent's union broke up before they were 15 are 75% more likely to choose living common-law themselves, something that is more typical in Canada than elsewhere.  A UN study found the following percentages of women aged 25 to 29 who live common-law:

Canada  40%
Italy    2%
U.K.    10%
Germany 11%
France  14%
Sweden  48%

[No comparable statistics relating to that trend in men of the corresponding age group were offered in the article. --WHS]

    The social consequences of "non-traditional marriage" are well documented.  Children of those marriages:

  • perform relatively poorly in school,
  • are more likely to exhibit criminal behaviour,
  • have more difficulty in their personal, social, and sexual relationship,
  • are twice as likely to drop out of school, and, if they are teen aged girls growing up without a natural father at home,
  • are 2.5 times more likely to become pregnant (elsewhere I read that 51% of those pregnancies will result in abortions, but it seems that that statistic relates to the US).

    Mark Genuis, executive director of the National Foundation for Family Research and Education (NFFRE) stated that trial marriages don't work.  People who engage in them appear to lack a clear vision of a common goal that will keep them together.
    Adrienne Snow, coordinator of policy and communications for NFFRE, notes that 60% of Domestic violence occurs in common-law relationships (With most of the rest occurring between separated couples. --WHS)
    Despite of all of the damning evidence, there has been very little public discussion of the social problems created by common-law relationships.  Ms. Snow offers these suggestions:

  • Develop policies and practices that treat "real" marriage as a privileged institution.
  • Stop the tax code from discriminating against married couples (basic tax exemptions for common-law couples are $6,456 each, while a spousal exemption is only $5,380)
  • Change what is being taught in schools with respect to sex and marriage. Teach students that common-law is an option, but marriage is far better.
  • Toughen divorce laws.
  • Take a critical look at legislation requiring employers to extend same health, dental, and pension benefits to common-law spouses as to married spouses.

    Paul Szabo, an Ontario Liberal MP and member of NFFRE's Federal Discussion Group on the Family pointed out that Ms. Snow's last proposal would violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  Ottawa has not only sanctioned common-law marriage, but has in fact exalted its status in other ways.  In 1993, the definition of spouse in the Income Tax Act was extended to include common-law partners.  In May of this year it was expanded again to include homosexuals [who are deemed "spouses"], a decision by one judge that wasn't objected to by the Liberal government.
    Based on the testimony given at the hearings of the Joint Senate-Commons Committee on Custody and Access, Mr. Szabo predicts that, policy makers will soon develop laws and regulations that will discourage marital break-up. One of these will likely be the requirement for separating parents to develop parenting plans before divorces are granted.
    Leonard Pollock, a lawyer and professor at the University of Calgary who specializes in family law, stated that in his 36 years of being involved with the issues he has come to the conclusion that we should prohibit anyone under 20 from becoming married, that we should become more frank in discussing that living together is about responsibilities, that you don't tell anything to a 15-year-old who thinks she's in love, you let her look after a pukey kid, that we should make students work in daycare, and that parents must set a better example.
    Glenn Stanton (author of Why Marriages Matter: Reasons to Believe in Marriage in Post-modern Society) from the Palmetto Family Council also states that his research indicates that peer pressure and the examples of their parents cause people to be more likely to be engaged in a common-law relationship.  The American Journal of Sociology determined that young people who take their faith seriously are less likely to cohabit.  He stated that just as society can influence smoking and drinking habits, we should also influence attitudes about marriage.
    "Marriage Savers," a non-profit ministry based in Bethesda, Maryland, is dedicated to reduce the divorce rate.  It was founded 12 years ago by nationally-syndicated ethics and religion columnist Michael McManus, and now works with pastors in 86 cities in 35 states and one in Surrey, B.C., Canada, to develop minimum community marriage policy: four months of marriage preparation, plus enrichment and assistance for troubled relationships.  He said that they don't want people to be able to jump from church to church to find the easiest place to get married.  Researcher Kent Dwyer stated that common-law is the easy way out, lacks commitment and is not worth waiting for.
    Mr. McManus reports that:

  • More than half of Americans now cohabit before marriage,
  • 60% eventually marry, and for those,
  • The divorce rate is 50% higher than for those who don't cohabit first,
  • Common-law relationships increased seven-fold since 1970,
  • Marriage has fallen 41%,
  • Those who married as virgins have half the divorce rate as non-virgins.

    He said that marital commitment is generated in the mind, not in the groin, and further stated that the net assets are

  • $66,000 for couples in their 50's,
  • $38,000 for couples who never married,
  • $34,000 for divorced couples, and
  •   $7,600 for separated couples.

    Mr. McManus further said that in 16 of the 87 cities in which the community marriage policy was adopted, the divorce rate has dropped by about one third.
    Pastor Ray Matheson of Calgary's First Alliance Church said that couples state that they must live common-law because they can't afford to pay for the marriage.  He said that he tells these couples that he'll do the service for free, that he knows an organist who won't charge anything and a pawnshop where a ring can be obtained, and that friends will provide the food for free.  He tells them: "The important thing is that you made a commitment to each other before God."
    The AR article concludes with a quote by columnist Charles Moore from the most recent edition of the Western Catholic Reporter:

"Marriage is more than a private relationship between two individuals.  The reason it has traditionally benefited from positive discrimination [special benefits, subsidies and rights] is recognition of the contribution to the common good by stable family units -- specifically, the procreation and healthy upbringing of children. . .All other domestic arrangements -- heterosexual or homosexual -- must be deemed purely private relationships that society has no interest in subsidizing.  It may take a political or even constitutional revolution to accomplish this, but the alternative is continued disintegration of our civilization."

The sorry facts behind common-law marriage

By Lorne Gunter

Edmonton Journal, 28.6.98

What business is it of anyone else if two consenting adults decide to live together rather than marry? The short answer is: none.

But like so many of today's short answers, it's an unsatisfactory one.

Because most of our opinion-makers refuse to see the consequences of moral decisions, society has an almost entirely sunny impression of cohabitation. It is even possible to witness talking heads on television chat shows claiming that living together is preferable to marriage -- more sophisticated, without the institutionalized oppression of women, a good way to "test drive" a relationship.

Almost nowhere does one encounter the view that common-law marriage is less worthy than solemnized marriage.

Human relationships are tricky things. There are some perfectly good common-law relationships. Statistics never tell the whole story.

Still, the statistics are pretty damning.

For instance, upwards of 60 per cent of domestic violence occurs in common-law "marriages." Since such relationships account for just over 14 per cent of adult pairings in Canada, the chance a man or woman in a common-law arrangement will be the victim of abuse is more than nine times the chance a married person will be.

By far the most common physical abuser of a child is his or her parent's common-law partner.

According to Statistics Canada, before they reach age 11, 63 per cent of children born in common-law relationships will witness their parents separate.

A lot of children of marriage suffer the same misfortune, you say. Try just 14 percent of those whose parents never lived together prenuptially; 26 per cent of those whose parents shacked up before the ceremony.

The notion that living together before the wedding serves as a useful indicator of marital success is also a hoax. Not only do 40 per cent of common-law relationships end before marriage, couples who lived together before exchanging vows are more than 50 per cent more likely to divorce than couples who do not. The famous factoid -- 50 per cent of all marriages end in divorce -- is badly skewed by the number of failed marriages of couples who lived together before marriage, as well as by people divorcing for the second or more time.

Indeed, only about a quarter of first marriages break up.

Admittedly, tracking the outcomes of common-law relationships is sometimes difficult. They are, after all, unregistered by their very nature. However, academic and government studies of large samplings of common-law couples consistently find that 80 to 85 per cent of couples who start out by living together fail to make it through life together. Among couples who never lived together before wedding one another, the failure rate is under 20 per cent.

Still, what gives anyone else the right to suggest common-law marriages are wrong? Just one thing: the cost of cleaning up the wreckage.

Children whose parents' relationship breaks down are much more likely to underachieve at school and in life. They are nearly twice as likely to drop out, and the girls are nearly three times as likely to get pregnant before leaving their teens and far more likely to have abortions.

Suicides are higher, illegal drug use is greater, and the incidence of “getting in trouble with the law" is nearly six times more.

People who plead the case for leniency towards convicts often site as justification the fact that nearly four in five come from broken homes. Still, most of the same people are too liberal to suggest that, therefore, couples have a moral and societal obligation to get and stay married.

Life expectancy and lifetime income are highest among married couples. And just this past Wednesday, Statistics Canada concluded that "marital status (more than age or sex) plays a decisive role in the quality of life of persons over 60."

Elderly women aren't poor and lonely mostly because they're women, but mostly because they once lived common-law or got divorced. Not even all the recent social engineering of law-makers and judges to give common-law and divorced spouses the same benefits as still-married ones seems to have altered that. Yet it has changed one thing. It has made ending many common-law relationships legally complicated, as messy as many divorces.

However, on account of the changing demographics and social standards that lead to and are caused by the systematic destruction of our families, especially women face more often problems that are of unprecedented magnitude — both, as victims and as perpetrators of elderly abuse.  The population sector containing the elderly grows at an unprecedented rate in absolute terms and especially in relative terms with respect to the size of the younger productive population sector that has to bear the increasingly unbearably large responsibility to care and provide for those who can't produce anything any longer for themselves.  One of the consequences of that is an enormous increase[*] in elderly abuse, predominantly cases of neglect of the elderly.[**]

Still, how can anyone justify passing judgement on their neighbours' "arrangements?"

Simple, marital breakdown is a leading cause of social problems, perhaps the leading cause. So because common-law relationships are so prone to breakdown they contribute disproportionately to the social ills that everyone must live with and subsidize.

Furthermore, because today's weep-easy state feels compelled to spend billions of dollars extracted involuntarily from others on programs to alleviate social problems, even those caused by the voluntary life choices of individuals and couples, it has made other people's business everyone's business.

Lorne Gunter writes for The Edmonton Journal

My notes:

*   150% in the US from 1986 to 1996 —WHS
**  Trends in Elder Abuse in Domestic Settings, NATIONAL CENTER ON ELDER ABUSE, Elder Abuse Information Series No. 2 (PDF 42kB).   The St. Louis Post-Dispatch produced an excellent series of articles on the topic of fatal elder abuse and neglect in US nursing homes (it is estimated that tens of tousands of cases happen each year), Neglected to Death (Oct. 12 - 19, 2002).  See abstract and commentary relating to the articles and to the problem of elder abuse and neglect in nursing home and hospitals. —WHS

More articles by Lorne Gunter

Additional Reading:

  • How is Mortality Affected by Money, Marriage and Stress?

By Jonathan Gardner, Watson Wyatt, LLP, and Andrew Oswaldi, Department of Economics, Warwick University, March 2004

Marriage is found to be associated with substantially lower rates of mortality, for both men and women. Married men are predicted to be some -7.2 percent less likely to die over the period [1993 to 2000] than unmarried men. For women, the effect is smaller.
   Women married in 1991 are approximately -4.1 percent less likely to die over the period 1993 to 2000 than otherwise similar unmarried women.

Full Story (PDF file, 136kB)

If you have concerns about these and other issues related to the condition of seniors, visit, contact and perhaps even join:

SUN ó Seniors United Now

The up- and coming, rapidly-growing advocacy organization for seniors (55 years and over) in Alberta

There are in the order of about half a million or more people of age 55 and over in Alberta. If all of them were to join SUN, they would become the most powerful advocacy organization in Alberta; and seniors would no longer be robbed of their comforts and otherwise ignored.
   At the price of one package of cigarettes seniors will be able to gain a voice that will be heard by a government that otherwise can and will take from seniors what they worked for all their life to enjoy in their old age.

If you are concerned about how seniors are affected by the planned, systematic destruction of our families and society, a search at google.com (for elderly OR seniors OR grandparent OR grandfather OR grandmother site:https://fathersforlife.org) will provide you with the links to about 80 web pages at Fathers for Life that will be of interest to you.

2001 02 09 (format changes)
2001 12 29 (inserted comment on Elder Abuse)
2002 10 20 (inserted reference to St. Louis Post-Dispatch series of articles on the killing of elderly in US nursing homes.)
2004 06 24 (added entry for SUN — Seniors United Now)
2006 03 04 (added link to Feminism for Male College Students)