Is marriage still a safe place for kids?

by Peter Magee on January 7, 2012

Peter MageeProfessor Parkinson AM is an Australian author and specialist in family law. His recent report For Kids Sake” calls on the Federal Government to overhaul its policy regarding the institution of marriage.

Professor Parkinson has recently released a report titled For Kids Sake. Professor Parkinson has played an important role in the 2006 amendments to the Family Law Act and in the Federal Government’s establishment of family relationship centres. The crux of “For Kids Sake” is that the decrease in marriage rates in Australia ultimately results in greater instability in the lives of children and young people.

The report cites numerous statistics, for example, that there has been a phenomenal doubling in the past 12 years in the number of children who do not live with both of their parents. Further, it cites that 25% of children who are born between 1981 and 1985 were either born and grew up in a family with a single mum or experienced their parents separating by the time they turned 15. The report cites alarming statistics which it advocates result from children growing up without married parents.

An example of one such statistic is that between 1996-97 and 2005-06 there has been an increase of 66% in the number of children aged 12-14 admitted into hospital due to self harm. Some might say that there are many possible explanations for this, such as family violence. Does Parkinson’s report leave one to conclude that married parents provide a more stable environment for children than do unmarried parents?

For Kids Sake strongly advocates that the Federal Government reform its policy. Specifically, the report champions the implementation of education courses that aim to promote healthy relationships. Parkinson advocates that such education courses would be conducted by trained volunteers and be delivered by groups such as rotary clubs. It is also advocated that this initiative be partly funded through the establishment of local community trusts which would offer tax deductable donations.

Given the influence of Professor Parkinson and his role in shaping Australian Family Law policy in past years, one should give some weight to his report and to the rationale that families where both parents are married provides a more stable environment in which children can grow up and develop. After all, what is the harm in the Federal Government implementing parenting and family education courses? Isn’t it at least worth a shot to educate and encourage people at different stages in their lives (such as getting married and preparing for their first child) to attend education courses in an attempt to make their marriage work? There is only one way to find out… and that is for the Federal Government to heed Professor Parkinson’s report and start implementing his recommendations.

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