Marriage, families key to success

As I went for a haircut last week, I spied the recent issue of Unlimited magazine. It speaks for rampantly capitalist ideals such as free enterprise, small businesses, and competitive market practices. Things not popular with Labour’s elitist “we-know-best”, interventionist agenda.

In particular, Vincent Heeringa’s rant about marriage and employment. Highlights:

Worried about your children’s job prospects? Get married

The problem with uttering anything to do with family, marriage, fidelity and values is that deep down, everyone suspects a minute later the opinion-holder will be found […] in a Peter Plumley-Walker-type embarrassment. Moral conservatives attract hypocrisy like pride attracts a fall.

Well, I’m going to take my chance on uttering an opinion that’s as conservative as apple pie.

I commented to a friend recently about the downstream effects on employment that the increasingly numbers of socially dysfunctional families must have. He replied, if it’s reliable, hard working and mentally well-adjusted employees you’re looking for, try asking one simple question at the recruitment interview: “Are your parents married?” (He also said) marriage is a predictor of success in later life.

He unfurled a scroll of data to back his case, … the most comprehensive being a study, “Why marriage matters” by 13 US social scientists in 2002, which concluded that children of two-parent, married families earn more, get in trouble less, live longer, are happier, avoid drug and alcohol abuse, require less government assistance for rehab, counselling, medical and housing programmes, and appear less frequently in the criminal justice system. [The next few paragraphs have more supporting data]

[paraphrase: Public discussion of the civil unions is predicated on supporting every anomalous structure, rather than encouraging and rewarding the married family ideal]

It’s funny how no other area of social life attracts such defeatism. You’d never hear “hey, people smoke anyway” or “it’s just too hard to convince kids to use a condom” or “breast cancer — aw shucks”. The volume of paper generated and government money spent on all three of those issues is based on the firm belief they are worth fixing.

Given what the above suggests about the power of marriage to affect long-term health, education and economic outcomes, why is so little effort put into backing agencies that promote and support marriage?

I suspect it has to do with politics. Across the ditch John Howard has been vocal in affirming the family as basis of society — and he means mum, dad and kids. Recently 132 countries of the 192 at the United Nations adopted a declaration, known as the Doha Declaration for the Family, drawn up by representatives of governments and NGOs meeting in Doha at the end of November. It affirms that “the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to the widest possible protection and assistance by society and the State”. In supporting the declaration, member states also agreed to “uphold, preserve and defend the institution of marriage”.

New Zealand didn’t sign the declaration.

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