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Debate: Marriage is outdated

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Revision as of 20:18, 19 September 2007

Is marriage an outdated institution? Is co-habitation replacing the institution of marriage, and will this affect the security and stability of children?

This article is based on a Debatabase entry written by Kirsteen Macleod. Because this document can be modified by any registered user of this site, its contents should be cited with care.

Contents

Background and Context of Debate:

Marriage is arguably losing its appeal claim many social scientists, and indeed many tabloids. With divorce ever on the increase – with statistics showing one out of every three marriages end in divorce, the institution of marriage as a religious and legal bond may be considered outdated in today’s society. Co-habitation is no longer unacceptable, indeed it is commonplace among the youth of today, and illegitimacy no longer carries such a social stigma. But is a stable family environment dependent on a marital bond – or more appropriately, if not dependent is it improved?

Argument #1

Yes

The principle of marriage has always been to provide a stable home life for the rearing of children. Psychologically scientific studies have found that co-habitation does not lend itself to as much psychological stability for a child. Regardless of the level of commitment between a couple, society still recognises marriage as an institution where most stability is gained. This is not to discredit single parent families or divorced parents, but to acknowledge the institute of marriage as the ideal outcome of a loving relationship and desire for a family.

No

It is fallacious to presume that marriage as an institution is what provides a stable home environment for a child. What is most important is the relationship between the two parents and their attitudes and relationships individually and together with the child. This is completely uncorrelated with marriage. What’s more a stable co-habitation situation is far better for a child than an unhappy marriage. The heartache, pain, stress and psychological disturbance of a child when their parents break up is not due to the breakdown of marriage but the breakdown of a relationship.

Argument #2

Yes

Marriage statistics themselves show that 1 out of 3 marriages are re-marriages. So whilst the divorce statistics may be at 40%, this does not show a lack of faith in marriage as an institution, merely that divorce is easier and more acceptable, or couples are entering into marriage more freely than before. Just because some marriages may fail does not mean that we should give up on an ideal. We are frequently disillusioned by the criminal justice system when it fails, but this does not mean we do not aspire to the principles it upholds in society. The same can be said for marriage.

No

It is unreasonable to expect couples to stay together for a lifetime in this day and age. There is more social pressure than ever before to be happy - and this outweighs the necessity to make a marriage work regardless. Fidelity is not determined by a marriage certificate and with an ever increasing life expectancy, and the freedom to pursue one’s goals more liberal, it is naive to believe that there is no possibility of couples either changing or making an original "mistake" in choosing each other. Society has long accepted that life partners need not be for life anymore. If people want to be together, surely they will. If a couple doesn't want to be together, why should their pain be drawn out unnecessarily by the formal bond of matrimony?

Argument #3

Yes

Marriage is still important in society as a rational view of what a loving committed relationship actually is: if love is so transient in society it is important to have a foundation to hold couples together to realise that friendship, support, trust and commitment are more important. We cannot encourage couples to live a more relaxed relationship when as parents they are responsible for a child’s welfare.

No

It is often the restrictions of society’s old-fashioned view of marriage that can cause it’s very problems. Relationship counsellors discovered that boredom, and taking your partner for granted were the most common manifestation of marital disputes, and often the constraints of marriage as opposed to co-habitation may cause either partner to feel trapped, thus compounding their problems.

Argument #4

Yes

Legally, marriage represents a more solid and protected base for both parties. In addition to protecting against inheritance disputes, loss of belongings etc. if the couple break up, it also may provide a stopcheck for separated couples who may decide to work harder at the relationship, being bound together by a legal contract as well as an emotional one.

No

The law incorporates enough protection for couples with “common law marriages” and various jurisdictions over inheritance and ownership. Co-habitation is far more practical, and avoids lengthy, painful, and expensive legal proceedings in the event of a relationship breakdown. The only thing that marriage gains is a socially recognised sense of emotional stability, and divorce rates are indicative of the fact that if a relationship is set to fail, the institution of marriage itself will not save it.

Argument #5

Yes

Marriage as a religious institution still retains its validity in a country whose main state religion is Christianity. For atheists, marriage need not represent religious bonding, but may still be a socially recognised approval and public avowal of love and commitment.

No

The primary focus of marriage is religious in nature to many people. In the current declining popularity of religion in Britain, such an institution is simply not representative of the majority beliefs. British society is too diverse now to have a moral consensus that goes beyond small groups.

References:

Motions:

  • This house would get married for the sake of its children
  • This house believes that love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage
  • This house would marry

In legislation, policy, and the real world:

See also on Debatepedia:

External links and resources:

Books:

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