Couples Opt to Have Children First and Marry Later; SOCIAL TRENDS: One in Three Babies Now Born out of Wedlock

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), January 31, 2002 | Go to article overview
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Couples Opt to Have Children First and Marry Later; SOCIAL TRENDS: One in Three Babies Now Born out of Wedlock


Byline: STEVE DUBE

THE stigma of having a child outside marriage has become so insignificant that more and more couples are having children first and getting married later.

Forty or even 30 years ago entire families felt ashamed by the birth of a baby to an unmarried mother and elaborate ruses were enacted to hide the truth with grandparents often posing as the parents of the child.

But today, due to more comfortable standards of living, the norm is fast becoming to have children first and get married later.

Although a survey earlier this week showed that more couples are getting married, new figures published yesterday revealed that an increasing number wait until after they have started a family.

One in three British children are now born out of wedlock, according to the annual social trends survey published by the Office for National Statistics.

It marks a huge increase since the 1980s, when 90pc of children were born to married couples. The UK now has the fourth highest rate of births outside marriage in the European Union.

It also shows clearly how society, and public opinion, has changed in the past 30 years.

"In terms of social conditions that's a long time ago, " said Cardiff-based child psychologist Dr Gordon Harold.

"Now everyone understands that it's the quality of relationship between parents that is the most important thing for the child, and marriage has nothing to do with that."

Church in Wales communication manager Sion Brynach said a stable marriage was still the best arrangement for bringing up a child.

"Over the centuries, the Church has emphasised that the best context for raising children is within the stable and long-term committed relationship where the couple concerned have already made a public declaration of that commitment one to another at a wedding service, " said Mr Brynach.

"However, we can't avoid the reality of contemporary society where couples may take a different approach to that of previous generations.

"We would hope that the church is not alone in thinking that a stable marriage based on mutual passionate commitment - as the Archbishop of Wales has put it in the past - is still the most appropriate context for bringing up a family."

The survey also shows that the average age of the population continues to increase and one-fifth of people in the UK will be aged 65 or over by 2025.

The survey also suggests that the number of deaths will exceed the birth rate by 2020 as fewer people have children and the baby boom generation born after World War II reaches old age.

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