Our views have changed on marriage

13 May 2016

The British public is reaching a tipping point in its views on marriage, according to a British Social Attitudes survey by NatCen Social Research.

For the first time since NatCen started asking whether people who want to have children ought to be married, the proportion who disagree (35%) is almost the same as those who agree (37%).

Back in 1989, seven people in 10 (70%) felt that people should be married if they want to have children, compared with less than two in 10 (17%) who disagreed.

Older people and people who are religious are more likely to believe that people who want children should marry, says the survey, however they are still much less likely to hold these views than in the 1980s.

There has also been an increase in the proportion of people who believe that there is little difference between being married and living together.

In 2014, 74% of people held this view, compared with 66% in 2006.

Meanwhile a significant majority (62%) also believe that it is just as difficult for unmarried parents to separate as it is for married parents.

Ian Simpson, NatCen senior researcher, says: “Our views on marriage and relationships have changed a lot in the past 30 years. People are more accepting of same-sex marriages, are more accepting of people living together without getting married, and are less likely to think that men should go out to work while women stay at home.”

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