Tuesday, June 15, 2021
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HomePoliticalJacinda’s Wedding Sends An Important Societal Message

Jacinda’s Wedding Sends An Important Societal Message

Commentary – Bob McCoskrie, National


In January 2018, Jacinda
Ardern announced
her pregnancy with boyfriend Clarke Gayford outside their
Auckland home to an adoring national and international
media. We all celebrated the exciting news of our Prime
Minister becoming a mother, and started counting down the
months and days to the birth of her daughter.

this media conference, a not-so-subtle reporter asked
“Have you considered getting married?” Clarke responded,
I like the idea we’re doing everything in reverse:
we bought a house together, then we’re having a baby,
and… we’ll see

In a subsequent radio
, Jacinda agreed. “I predict we will one
day. It’s just we happen to have done things in reverse a
little bit, but that happens in life sometimes

As we know, Clarke popped the question and
the pair were engaged over Easter weekend 2019 at

And now we excitedly await the wedding day this
coming summer.

We should celebrate this announcement
– both for the couple and their daughter – but also
because it sends an important societal

Marriage still matters.

Jacinda and
Clark were right. Generally speaking, society still thinks
that the best approach is to get married, get pregnant, get
a house – kind of that order. Sometimes the house comes
before the children – although that is becoming
increasingly difficult in New Zealand due to the current
housing market.

It has always been understood that
there is a stability that marriage brings which is not so
easily replicated in other partnership arrangements, and
which can create the best environment possible for

Research is persuasive; children raised by
their married biological parents are by far the safest from
violence, abuse, poverty, and from prison – and so too are
the adults. Not always – but the exception actually
reinforces the norm.

But often when marriage is
promoted, it is labelled as an attack on solo or divorced
parents. That prevents us from recognising the benefits of
marriage supported by decades of research. In virtually
every category that social science has measured, children
and adults do better when parents get married and stay
married – provided there is no presence of high conflict
or violence.

This is not a criticism of solo parents.
It simply acknowledges the benefits of the institution of

In fact, just last September, Stats NZ announced
that sole parents of dependent children report lower levels
of wellbeing across a range of measures, including mental
health and loneliness. 27% of sole parents rated their
overall life satisfaction as low (a score of 0–6 on a
scale of 0–10, where 0 is completely dissatisfied and 10
is completely satisfied), compared with only 12% of
partnered parents to dependent children. The majority (83%)
of these sole parents were women.

However, according
to the
most recently reported statistics
, the general marriage
rate has dropped to a record low of only 10 couples per
1,000 people eligible to marry (unmarried people aged 16
years and over). This is less than half of the rate of 30
years ago and follows a general decline since the peak in
1971 when the marriage rate was 45.5 per 1,000.

decline is one of our most important social issues.

recent report
on child abuse in New Zealand and its causes argued that
‘family structure’ is the ‘elephant in the room’,
and that the growth of child abuse has accompanied a
reduction in marriage and an increase in cohabiting and
single-parent families.

The presence of biological
fathers matters because, generally – but not every time,
it protects children from child abuse. Marriage presents the
greatest likelihood that the father will remain part of an
intact family.

Compared to married parents, cohabiting
parents are 4-5 times more likely to separate by the time
their child is aged five.

The report follows on from
an earlier report
(May 2016) on child poverty and its similar link to family
structure, and a report
on imprisonment rates (June 2018). The latter report stated
that if the government doesn’t want to keep building more
prisons, it needs to look to the children who are
potentially tomorrow’s offenders and acknowledge the role
family stability plays.

An analysis of social science
literature over 30 years by The Heritage Foundation,
an influential US research institute, found that the rise in
violent crime parallels the rise in families abandoned by
fathers. The Heritage Foundation research found that
while the finger often gets pointed at certain racial
groups, the real variable is not race but family structure.
It’s just that the incidence of broken families is much
higher in the racial groups often cited, as is the case in
New Zealand.

According to Why Marriage Matters –
a report
by 13 leading social-science academics, including Professor
William Galston, a domestic policy adviser to the Clinton
administration – parental divorce or non-marriage appears to
increase children’s risk of school failure, the risk of
suicide, psychological distress, and most significantly,
delinquent and criminal behaviour.

A 2008 report
by the NZ Institute of Economic Research estimated that the
fiscal cost to the New Zealand taxpayer of family breakdown
and decreasing marriage rates is at least $1 billion per
year and has cost approximately $8 billion over the past

On average, children raised by married couples
have the best outcomes in health, education and income, and
by far the lowest involvement with the criminal justice

Marriage – whether preceded by a period of
cohabitation or not – remains the more stable form of
relationship. That’s why marriage is needed and why
marriage matters.

It’s not simplistic or intolerant
to promote marriage. And it’s not unrealistic to teach
future generations that the best environment for them as
parents, and for their children, is within

Marriage isn’t perfect, but we ignore its
benefits at our peril.

Governments should focus on and
encourage and support what works. Our children deserve this
investment in their safety and protection.

why Jacinda and Clark’s planned wedding sends an important
societal message.

Marriage still matters. We wish them
all the best as they prepare for this special and
significant day for their

© Scoop Media


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