Marriage versus De Facto relationships

Family First claims that a drop in marriage rates is one of the main drivers of child poverty. I’m not sure they have this right.

Stuff: Lobby group Family First blames unmarried couples for child poverty

An unmarried couple with children is highly likely to be struggling in poverty, a conservative lobby group claims. 

The claim comes from a new report by researcher and artist Lindsay Mitchell, who said there was “overwhelming and incontrovertible” evidence that a drop in marriage rates was one of the main drivers of an increase in child poverty.

The glossy report, funded by conservative Christian lobby group Family First, looked at household income and family structures from the 1960s to the current day.

A heck of a lot has changed in New Zealand society since the 1960s. I have major doubts over marriage rates being such a big factor.

It states that with people having fewer children than in the past and people delaying birth until they were older, families should be better off financially, but that was not the case.

A lot of families are better off financially, especially those that have fewer children and have families when they are older.

“Despite marriage being the best protector against child poverty it has become politically unfashionable – some argue insensitive – to express such a view.

“But if there is to be any political will to solve child poverty the issue has to be confronted.”


A stable family with two parents in a relationship and with a steady and reasonable level of income are certainly significant factors.

Whether the parents are married or not is largely irrelevant. Marriage is a legal document and a social custom but it has become optional and unnecessary for a good family environment.

Unsurprisingly, single-parent families were described as the poorest in New Zealand.

Single parent families are naturally going to find things tougher financially generally – although no always, a married couple with one partner an alcoholic or drug addict or in prison will tend towards being poorer.

But currently, 27 per cent of registered births were to cohabiting, or de facto, parents.

Mitchell said these relationships became less stable over time, the parents were poorer than married parents and separation by the time a child was aged five was four to six times greater than married parents.

I don’t see any reason why a de facto relationship should become more unstable over time than a marriage relationship.

A legal marriage will have little effect on the strength of a relationship.

Citing an Australian study, the report suggests married men earned a substantially higher wage than a cohabiting man and worked substantially longer hours.

But that could mean that higher earners were more likely to get married.

The cost of marriage can be a deterrent to poorer people.

I know of stable two parent families that put more priority on providing for their current needs than forking out thousands of dollars on a wedding that they would quite like but are happy to postpone.

But The Family Centre social policy researcher Charles Waldergrave said that to simply say that married people’s children were better off was a misuse of statistics.

“You can’t just correlate things and then start talking about causality, you just can’t do it that way.

“The fact that married people and people in de facto relationships earn different amounts of money doesn’t make it causal in terms of child poverty.”

That’s right.

Middle-class people were more likely to get married while de facto relationships were more common in lower-income households, but factors such as the economy affected both.

The main causes of child poverty was not a lack of marriages, but things like low incomes, the casualisation of work and the benefit system, he said.

“Poverty is essentially the access to resources and in a capitalist society that depends on income.”

And something that has changed significantly since the 1960s (fifty years ago) is we have become a far more consumerist society. This affects families whether parents are married or not.

The cost of weddings – how many people want to get married – is huge for lower income earners. Without the social pressure to get married it’s easy to postpone a spending spree that is actually unnecessary.  It’s an optional extra.

Mitchell said her aim with the research was not to ruffle feathers, but present information so it could be debated.

Many of those in de facto relationships were in their second and third relationships, supporting children from previous partners.

Remarriage and blended families with marriage involved are also common.

While cohabiting parents were more likely to have only one child, they were also more likely than married couples to have four or more.

Which means?

They were also much less stable than married couples, although Mitchell was unsure why.

That’s very poorly stated.

Many de facto relationships are as stable as many married relationships.

Of course some de facto relationships will be less stable than many married relationships, they can (but far from always) involve far less commitment.

If marriage was made compulsory it wouldn’t transform poor partners into reliable partners.

Poor partners are less likely to get married. It may be no more than that.

“Child poverty has become a really big issue and everyone is concerned about it…but we don’t hear anyone talking about the change in family structure.”

Family First national director Bob McCoskrie described the link between a drop in marriage and rise in child poverty as the “elephant in the room”.

“People would like to believe that there isn’t [a link] but unfortunately. the research shows de facto or cohabiting relationships are less stable.”

But in the 1960s it is very likely that shotgun weddings – or rushed marriages precipitated by pregnancy – would have had a higher proportion of  unstable relationships than carefully planned marriages and families.

As far as marriage is concerned probably all that has changed as the relationships least likely to endure never involve marriage any more.

A forced marriage with a dysfunctional relationship in which society puts pressure on for the  marriage to continue regardless of obvious problems – sometimes quite serious problems – is not a good solution.

Family First has raised some important issues – but if they really wanted debate rather than simply to promote their ideal of Marriage First then they would have presented their research without jumping to poorly supported solutions that simply fitted their last century world view.

New Zealand society has changed enormously over the last half century. Trying to force things back to some idealistic model of marriage is not a good way to address the obvious issues we currently have.

Encouraging and supporting better relationships and more responsible parenting- whether married or de facto – is surely a far better approach.

Marriage leading to hell – apparently there are still ‘Christians’ this extreme

There is a handful of old school Christians who either work in shifts or flock en masse to to Kiwiblog when certain topics come up, especially at the moment anything on marriage equality or homosexuality. Some see the end of the world as nigh if a small minority are given the same right to legally married as most of us.

There are other Christians who don’t push their pulpits, and no doubt more who keep their beliefs to themselves.

Sometimes religious arguments tend towards the extreme, where some from both sides can be rude and display high degrees of intolerance.

One occasional visitor is Scott. Here is some of what he posted yesterday on Craig says he would vote for gay marriage if electorate backs it.

Marriage is a natural pairing of a man and woman that existed before the state. Before government, before even kings there was marriage. First mentioned in the Bible with the pairing of the first two human beings, Adam and Eve.

Gay marriage in contrast is purely a creation of the state. So it represents a relatively small number of gay activists using the power of the state to impose homosexuality as worthy of the status of marriage. So it is an excellent example of the state interfering in people’s lives.

So far a fairly fundamental Christian view.

It will require heaps of legislation changes and will inevitably lead to persecution of conservatives and Christians by the state. But when pastors go to jail and churches are fined out of existence for not allowing gay marriage on their premises no doubt many on this thread will congratulate themselves on how wonderful it is that the state is not intruding in people’s lives.

There are a few who see it as a direct threat to them, sometimes to the extent of paranoia.

My point is that marriage is not an invention of the state and existed before the state. Gay marriage is an invention of the state and would not exist without major government legislation. So the people who are for gay marriage are the ones promoting government interference in people’s lives.

A common (minority) Christian view is that allowing other people to get married is state interference in their own lives. They see it as a threat to their beliefs.

Marriage existed before the State, before there were even kings and queens. When Abraham married Sarah there were no government officials or even nation states. So marriage preceded the state.

Scott thinks that Christianity created marriage and therefore owns marriage.

Others suggested that defacto relationships preceded marriage. Not as far as Scott is concerned.

SPC my dear chap. One is entitled to one’s opinion, one is not entitled to one’s own facts. In the beginning there were de facto relationships and then came marriage is nonsense. Provide lots of evidence please or immediately withdraw your statement.

Without “lots of evidence” you can discount the opposing view.

For your information marriage occurs in the Bible with married couples like Abraham and Sarah who lived around 1800BC.
The ancient Egyptian Pharaohs had wives etc, etc. The evidence for marriage in ancient times and not de facto relationships is so overwhelming that to suggest otherwise is simply not rational.

Claims evidence of marriages and not of de facto relationships.

I suggested there must have been coupling of humans before marriage at some stage back in history, so ‘de facto’ first is really the only practical possibility. “In fact ‘suddenly marriage being created’ before any other type of relationship makes no sense at all.”

Have to agree to disagree Pete my old stick. First two human beings created by God and married by God. I know descending from apes, millions of years, all that sort of thing is fashionable but I just think it’s all bollocks really. The de facto relationships precedes marriage idea is a product of evolutionary speculation and doesn’t have any actual historical data to back it up.

His claims have no historical data to back them up (the Bible isn’t historical data), but no matter. Scott is about to launch THE BIG THREAT.

I just don’t know why people abandon faith in God to embrace evolution and consequently atheism. It’s a terrible world view to live by. No hope, no purpose, no love, just blind pitiless indifference.

By the way Pete, when you die, which way are you going to go? Up or down?

Thunder and brimstone – if you don’t agree, accept, believe, you are the pits will be damned to hell.

Having never believed in hell (but having of hope, purpose and love in my life) I find it hard to understand how people can have such strong views and beliefs, and how they can have such a strong intolerance of their views being challenged.

And Scott wasn’t alone, ‘smallgovernment ‘ added their bit:

Pete, to say we ‘start as atheists’ is idiocy. We start life knowing nothing (although I believe we have a spiritual nature) and are taught – by our parents if they are worth their salt.

SPC, I’d say the onus is on you to make sure that your lack of belief in God is not going to have you end up in hell. You call that a threat (which is ridiculous, because I’m not creating the consequences) – I call it a warning or maybe an excellent reason to seek God to see if there really is something to Christianity.

Many of the atheists here think themselves very clever and look down their noses at Christians.

Ironic saying that many athesists look down their noses at Christians having just intimated that if you “lack of belief in God” you will “end up in hell” is a lot more downward looking than our noses.

Silly academic objections or logical arguments are a poor substitute for seeking an actual experience of God by reading the Bible and praying.

I have no problem with people who get something out of reading the Bible and who pray – it’s their choice what they do and what they believe.

But in the modern world “silly academic objections” and “logical arguments” have superceded many old beliefs. Most Christians understand (I think) that the knowledge of the world now means that they have to modify their beliefs, that ancient writings were not literal and did not always portray a way of life or ways of the world that make any sense with a modern scientific knowledge.

But a few cling to a fervent belief in what many now see as unbelievable.

And those few seem to really fear the threat that modern knowledge is to the very essence of their beliefs.

And sometimes they try to transform their fear  and transfer it to those of us who think and believe differently.

I have been threatened with hell last night and in the past. Yes, it is an attempted threat of consequence of not agreeing, of not believing rthe same. But I have never had any belief in it or fear of ‘hell’. There is absolutely no evidence of it and nothing to suggest it is anything but a priestly construct designed to scare people into complying with their demands.

To hell with hell. It is nothing more than a last resort in an argument, it’s the ultimate threat with no argument.

And utlimately that’s a sign that some with extreme religious views see their views increasingly threatened by modern reality.

They are in a blind, pitiful spiritual trap of their teacher’s making.