Western Mail, 13th April 2010
CHILDREN of divorced parents are not being put off getting married themselves, according to a new survey.

More than eight out of 10 young women polled said they still wanted to tie the knot in spite of their parents’ relationship breakdowns, with the average respondent hoping to do so at 26.

The results of the Marriage and Wedding Survey, commissioned by More Magazine, has prompted a Welsh family law firm to suggest the damage of divorce is over-estimated.

Some 78% of the 2,000 women surveyed in their mid-20s saw marriage as the ultimate commitment above having a baby or buying a house with a partner and felt it should be “for life”, while six out of 10 thought it was important to be married before having children.

And in sharp contrast to opinions a decade ago, when women wanted to be older when they wed, the survey said women would ideally like to marry at 26 and have their first child at 27.

The results are at odds with data published in February by the Office for National Statistics, which revealed the provisional number of marriages registered in 2008 was the lowest in Wales and England since 1895.

Thea Hughes, a partner with Cardiff-based Wendy Hopkins Family Law Practice, said: “First of all, I think the figures show that divorces, if they are handled well, don’t have to negatively impact on the children’s lives. Perhaps they have seen that it’s not the end of the world.

“Secondly, I think women are becoming more aware that marriage provides more protection than simply living together.”

Terry Prendergast, chief executive of Marriage Care, which has counselling centres in Swansea, Cardiff, Newport and Wrexham, said: “It’s an encouraging response. When research was done by [York University professor] Kathleen Kiernan in 2000, the suggestion was that a large number of young people were not marrying because they were frightened of what happened when their own parents divorced.

“What’s crucial when parents divorce is how that divorce happens, how the children feel during the divorce, whether they are part of the problem or used as weapons, or the parents are sufficiently grounded to deal with their own separation and ensure that their children are still their children. Maybe they had a good experience of their parent’s divorce.

“There has been concern again from the Government, from charities and our own organisations about the decline in the number of marriages over the years. What’s interesting is, what is being reported about young people sits in opposition to this report, which suggests people are aspiring to do something different.”

A spokeswoman for the Church in Wales said: “No-one walking down the aisle expects their marriage to end in divorce. Unfortunately, however, many have an unrealistic idea of what it really means to commit your life to someone else and it’s only once the romance of the honeymoon has faded that the real commitment begins.

“It’s heartening to see that so many young women surveyed still have faith in marriage. It’s important that they see beyond the wedding, the dreams of walking down the aisle, to the reality of keeping the vows they make when times get tough.

“Many churches hold courses for couples thinking of getting married and they can also offer help and support for couples going through difficult times.”

Raye Saunders, the Diocesan president of Llandaff Mothers’ Union, said: “Mother’s Union is committed to marriage and believes that this is the best way of cementing relationships and building family life. So we are delighted that the survey shows that young women have kept faith in marriage.”