Written by Michaela Hyde, Executive Director of Marriage Foundation
It was in 2012, after more than four decades in the Family Courts (fourteen as a High Court Judge), that Sir Paul Coleridge set up Marriage Foundation to spearhead a campaign to tackle and reduce family breakdown in our nation. His experiences in the family justice system moved him to act in order to challenge public opinion to demonstrate that the commitment of marriage affects the outcomes of all of our children.
Since those beginnings, Marriage Foundation has been championing marriage as the ‘gold standard’ for couple relationships and dispelling myths that marriage is just a piece of paper that makes no difference. By undertaking, publishing and broadcasting ground-breaking research we have heightened public, media and government awareness and understanding of the scale of family breakdown. To date, we have produced more than 40 research papers and have been interviewed, quoted or cited more than 1,000 times in mainstream media.
Our research has shown that 90% of cohabiting parents who stay together until their children reach 15 years of age are married, and that divorce rates have been on the decline for eight years and are now at their lowest for fifty years. But sadly, in contrast, unmarried cohabitants break up at three times the rate of married couples. Unmarried parents make up only 19% of all couples with dependent children, yet account for half of all family breakdown.
Why does this matter? Because it is well documented that those who experience family breakdown when aged 18 or younger are typically twice as likely to experience many of the challenging social issues facing our society today, including mental health, reduced educational attainment, crime or homelessness.
Our hope is that all children, couples and families thrive and are able to live their very best lives. Stable families need the security of stable marriage (or formal commitment). There is huge significance in the process of deciding to commit in marriage. Without that decision, there is ambiguity and ambiguity can put a relationship at risk. Marriage really does matter, this isn’t just a hunch, it’s based on robust research that is there to inform our nation. Government, media, couples, individuals, rich, poor, young and old, we want everyone to not only see that marriage is the best arrangement but to also act on this knowledge.