Do we still need to get married before starting a family?

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Deciding to start a family is considered a life-altering decision by most people. For many of us, this decision has been outlined step by step. For some couples, one of these steps is marriage, other couples might prefer to get married after having kids or not at all. Whatever the decision may be, a research conducted by The Guardian has shown that we consider marriage to be less important than a decade ago. Though, many European countries still require marriage before being able to gain financial support or in some countries even access to ART. Marriage has come with some benefits in the past, but are those still relevant in a modern society?  

The importance of marriage in the past

According to a research conducted by BBC news, three of the main reasons people used to get married between 1900s and 2000s are to have sex, efficiently divide up labor and raise children. Let’s take a deeper look into these reasons in today’s society:

Marriage used to be the only relationship in which legitimate sexual relations could take place. Now, largely as a result of the invention of artificial birth control and abortion, this view has changed in the eyes of many Westerners. Which means that having a sexual relationship with someone does not always come with the responsibility of having to raise a child with this person, so the taboo on pre-marital sex has been lifted.

Marriage used to have a strong economic component as well. Most of the jobs that existed in the early industrial societies required hard physical labor which men could perform better than women. This led to women depending on men for the income they could not earn themselves. Fortunately, now this imbalance has changed with more and more jobs not requiring hard physical labor anymore and can thus be done by women as well as by men which also means that women can now earn their own income and maintain themselves independently from men.

Finally, marriage used to be a necessary requirement before starting a family. This was not only a social requirement, but some countries even considered it illegal to have children unmarried. The link between marriage and children’s wellbeing was made in the past because married couples would be able to provide their children with more financial resources, healthcare and better education. However, the question remains whether access to financial resources, healthcare and education are still considered the only components necessary for a child to thrive. Besides, according to the future of children association most research analysing the link between marriage and children wellbeing did not take into account other factors since most children raised by single or cohabiting parents are usually from minority groups. Factors such as socioeconomic disadvantages, discrimination and barriers to employment were mostly ignored.

The importance of marriage when accessing ART

In our latest Linkedin poll, 75% of the respondents agreed that marriage should not be necessary when deciding to start a family.

Unfortunately, many European countries still refuse to support unmarried couples in their family forming journey by not providing financial support for Artificial Reproductive Technology (ART) or in some countries unmarried couples can not access ART at all. For example Germany requires couples to be married before gaining any financial support and the UK allows for treatment but discriminate against unmarried same-sex couples and single women when it comes to financial support in comparison with unmarried heterosexual couples. We have seen that marriage did come with advantages in the past, for example economically or most importantly, in a child’s wellbeing. Although both of these arguments have been debunked now that women are able to provide for themselves and according to research, children raised by single and or LGBTQ+ parents perform at least as well as children raised by different-sex parents in school, socially and are just as healthy in 2020.

How can you help?

European law and legislation has made it hard for alternative couples or singles to start their family forming journey, but you can take a step in the right direction by providing an inclusive fertility benefits program where all employees feel supported when deciding to start a family regardless of marital status. Because starting a family is a right, not a privilege.

General advice posted on our blog or website or app is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. OVIAVO makes no warranties regarding treatments, coverage, or chances of success.

Jenny Saft

Jenny Saft

Founder of OVIAVO

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