Peter Saunders highlights a recent report by a group of 18 family scholars summarising new findings from the social sciences on the state of marriage and family life.
The report, Why marriage matters, published by the Institute of American Values, lists 30 conclusions about the positive benefits associated with marriage.
In the latter half of the 20th century, divorce was the greatest threat to child wellbeing and the institution of marriage in the US. Children, it says, are now more likely to be exposed to a cohabiting union than a parental divorce. But the intact, biological, married family remains the gold standard for family life. Children are most likely to thrive economically, socially and psychologically in this sort of family.
Peter Saunders says there were similar findings in the Centre for Social Justice report Breakdown Britain in 2006, which found the breakdown of marriage and the family was the key driver of Britain's collapse. (The percentage of children born outside marriage rose from eight per cent in 1970 to 46 per cent in 2009.)
"Many of the mental and physical problems that daily fill our GP surgeries, hospital wards and outpatient departments are symptoms of this. The main drivers, the five 'pathways to poverty,' are all correlated with the collapse of marriage: family breakdown, educational failure, economic dependence, indebtedness and addiction. . .
"Children from a broken home are twice as likely to have behavioural problems, perform worse at school, become sexually active at a younger age, suffer depression, and turn to drugs, smoking and heavy drinking. A parent who has a serious drug problem or is addicted to alcohol can exhibit destructive behaviour patterns which can destroy the quality of life for the other parent and for children, leading in turn to family breakdown. . .
"The church has at this time an amazing opportunity to model marriage and family to a society where alternative models have failed.
"Marriage is a virtually universal human institution because it was originally God's idea. . .
"Let's celebrate, demonstrate, promote and protect marriage as the vehicle of blessing that it is for husbands, wives, children, parents, extended family, community and ultimately the world."