DEBATE: Should the Government Promote Marriage? ; Last Week Labour Women Forced Tony Blair to Water Down His Views on the Importance of Family Values and Traditional Marriage

Article excerpt

NO

BEATRIX CAMPBELL

`Parents don't want interference in morals or sexual manners'

BEATRIX CAMPBELL

YES

PATRICIA MORGAN

`Rates of violence and conflict are higher for cohabitees'

The Government may think we all know what it means by traditional family values. But do we? Is it the extended kinship of Bradford Muslims? Or is it the Viz version, with dads in string vests and mums doing Sunday dinners? It probably doesn't mean the dedicated domesticity of same-sex parents who, according to research, yield exemplary children. There is no evidence that in general children are beset by bad parents. Quite the contrary - mothers and fathers are perhaps more connected and caring than ever before.

PATRICIA MORGAN Children born or adopted and raised in an intact marriage are more apt to avoid criminal and psychiatric trouble, achieve more educationally and become gainfully employed. In turn, they are likely to get and stay married and raise the next generation compared to those reared by single or cohabiting parents, relatives, step-parents, foster parents or in institutions. Family fragmentation exerts a downward pressure on the abilities of families to transmit resources, values and opportunities to their children. Non- marriage and unwed child- bearing involves the transmission of low human capital and increases dependence on public institutions.

BC This is a debate that is not about domesticity but discipline. It was Tony Blair and Jack Straw who invoked parenting as the key word in the regressive social authoritarianism that became the founding marque of New Labour. These men traduced parenting as the policing of children. Insofar as New Labour has a child-care agenda it is to control the children of its nightmares, those feral offspring of the rough and unrespectable.

PM A child sired outside marriage is less likely to receive care and support even compared to when a marriage breaks up. While some married men may neglect their paternal obligations, men do not make as dependable fathers outside marriage. Cohabitations with children break up at five- fold the rate of marriages. Marriage is an institution in which the pursuit of individual objectives is replaced by joint goals. …