sex link to divorce
Kamal Ahmed, Political editor
Sunday July 22, 2001
Teenagers who come from stable homes with married parents are much less likely to have underage sex and unwanted pregnancies, according to one of the largest surveys of teenage behavior.
In an exclusive preview of the study to be published on Tuesday, the findings for the first time make a direct link between the teenager's family environment and his or her attitude to sex.
The survey of 2,000 teenagers aged 13-15 will be presented to the Lords and Commons Family and Child Protection Group. It will re-ignite the debate on the role of the family in raising a generation of children who campaigners allege are bombarded with images of sex through the media.
Britain has one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the Western world, an issue that has been identified by Prime Minister Tony Blair as one that needs to be tackled.
However, the report, which says that cohabitation and single parent homes lead to more lax attitudes to underage sex and more teenage pregnancies, was condemned last night for being simplistic.
But the report's authors defended the document, which reveals that teenagers are twice as likely to engage in underage sex if their parents are separated or cohabiting rather than married.
'This is surely one of the most important issues facing our country today,' said Dr Clifford Hill, one of the authors of the report by the Family Matters Institute. 'The simple fact is that the family environment and the relationship between the husband and wife can have a very real effect on the children.
'If one or other of the parents is rarely around or has been unfaithful then that affects the mores of the child.'
Hill said the number of children born to unmarried couples had risen from 5 per cent in 1960 to 10 per cent in 1980, and to 38 per cent in 1999. The number of babies born to teenage mothers totaled 48,000 last year, a number that has remained high despite falling on the Continent.
The survey found that children who did not think that they had a 'good' relationship with their parents were much more likely to engage in underage sex. Nearly 60 per cent of those who said that they had 'no sexual experience' said that they had a very good relationship with their mother, compared to 43 per cent of those who had had sex.
The Family Matters report was overseen by Professor Martin Richards, head of the Centre for Family Research at Cambridge University, and a respected expert on the subject. He warned that the results should not be taken out of context and that there were other factors to consider.
'There does appear to be an association between types of family relationship and young people's attitude to sex,' he said. 'If parents are going through a difficult time then they are often preoccupied with their own issues and may not be as focused on their children as they might be at other times.
'This is unfortunately often at a time in the teenager's life when they are starting to form their first relationships and they are not getting the sort of support they need from home.'
Divorce IS bad - for the parents AND the children. God said it first, but studies like this may help if someone cares enough to live by TRUTH rather than selfish desires.