July 9, 2004 | WebMemo on Family and Marriage

Academics Raise the Alarm Over Marriage

From Reformatorisch Dagblad, July 8, 2004 (original)

THE HAGUE -- In an open letter to this newspaper, five academics raise the alarm over the deteriorating state of marriage in the Netherlands. "People seem to attach less and less importance to marriage. More people are having children out of wedlock, even though marriage is the best setting for successfully raising a child.

Whereas in 1990 more than 95,000 couples got married, in 2003 this number had fallen to 82,000. And while in 1989 only one in ten children was born out of wedlock, in 2003 it was almost one in three. The five academics, including Prof. M. van Mourik, professor in contract law at Nijmegen University and Dr. J. van Loon, a sociologist working at Nottingham Trent University, express their deep concern over these developments. "There is a broad base of social and legal research that shows marriage to be the best structure for the successful raising of children. A child of out-of-wedlock parents has a greater chance of experiencing problems in his or her psychological development, health, school performance, and even the quality of future relationships.

One remarkable aspect of the letter is the fact that the authors establish a link with the introduction of gay marriage in the Netherlands. "There are good reasons to believe the decline in Dutch marriage may be connected to the successful public campaign for the opening of marriage to same-sex couples in the Netherlands. The introduction of gay marriage paved the way to a greater acceptance of alternative forms of cohabitation." The authors call for "a national debate about how to strengthen the position of marriage." They hope that the devaluation of marriage in the Netherlands will be an important reason for countries like the United States not to introduce gay marriage.

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