I've just been looking at the press release for the British Social Attitudes ('BSA') 26th Report, which was published today. Along with the unsurprising news that fewer people in Britain feel an obligation to vote than at any time since the question was first posed on BSA in 1991, the Report has some interesting findings regarding attitudes towards cohabitation.
Cohabitation, it seems, is becoming increasingly acceptable, with 45% of those questioned agreeing that it ‘makes no difference to children whether their parents are married to each other or just living together’, up from 38% in 1998. This rather contradicts those, particularly the Tories, who maintain that it is far better for children if their parents are married. The press release suggests that the change is "partly because younger, more liberal, generations are gradually replacing older, less liberal, ones" and goes on to say that "on many issues, like cohabitation, people are also becoming more tolerant as they get older, reflecting their life experiences". I'm sure that this is the case. Interestingly, the press release states that "Britain is more tolerant than many other European countries of “non-traditional” family arrangements", although whether this is because we are genuinely more tolerant here or simply because more couples cohabit here, is not clear.
What is clear is that with greater acceptance the proportion of couples that cohabit rather than marry will surely increase, or at least remain at the same level. Time at last to bow to the inevitable and give them proper rights upon relationship breakdown?
The press release can be found, in Word document format, on the National Centre for Social Research website.