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The latest population estimates from the Office for National Statistics show that the proportion who are married has fallen below half for the first time.
Societies throughout history have encouraged marriage because they know it’s the most effective method for bonding men with the mothers of their future children. The psychology of marriage works. Yet while the policy-making classes warmly embrace marriage in their own private lives, they fail to embrace it in their public policies.
The continued trend away from marriage is bad news for couples and bad news for children. Nearly half of all teenagers do not live with both natural parents, most of which due to the separation of parents who never married.
Marriage may not be a panacea but it stacks the odds in favour of stable families. Most young adults want to marry at some stage. Yet this trend shows we are making it hard for them. Welfare policies make it especially punitive for the lowest earners to marry.
It’s also noteworthy that this recent drop reflects the draconian restrictions on weddings during lockdown year of 2020. In that year, UK weddings dropped by 61 percent, the worst in Europe.
It’s nearly a decade since any cabinet minister made any speech or comment on marriage. Maybe these figures will prompt them.
Harry Benson, Research Director Marriage Foundation
25 January 2024
Times front page Fewer than half of adults are married or in civil partnerships : Marriage Foundation says this is bad news for couples and bad news for children
The Sun Proportion of people aged 16 or older in England & Wales who are married or in a civil partnership falls to historic low : The Marriage Foundation said the continued trend away from marriage was ‘bad news for couples and bad news for children’
Telegraph People shunning marriage as they prioritise property and children
Independent Number of people married or in civil partnerships falls below 50% for the first time : The Marriage Foundation said the continued trend away from marriage is ‘bad news for couples and bad news for children’