Illustration by Ena Goquiolay

Marriage faces uphill climb, survey finds

  • May 20, 2018

OTTAWA – More than half of Canadians think marriage is unimportant, according to a new Angus Reid poll. That stark statistic has defenders of traditional marriage a little troubled.

“If we take seriously Pope Francis’ words that ‘the welfare of the family is decisive for the future of the world and that of the Church’ then the current numbers on Canadians’ view of marriage can seem disheartening and bleak,” said Michel MacDonald, the executive director of the Catholic Organization for Life and Family

“That being said, it is interesting to note that although 53 per cent of Canadians are of the opinion that marriage is not important, the majority still see marriage as a truer type of commitment than a common-law relationship.”

Compared with data from a Pew Research study of American attitudes as recently as 2014, Canadians have a “considerably lower” view of marriage than those south of the border, the pollster said in a release May 7. Two-thirds of Americans said marriage was either “very or somewhat important to them.”

Even when children are added the mix, 60 per cent of Canadians do not think a public marriage ceremony is necessary.

When it comes to Canadians’ attitudes towards religious weddings, only 18 per cent agree that a “religious wedding is more legitimate than a civil wedding.”

However, most (57 per cent) Canadians view a common-law relationship as “a lesser form of commitment,” even if 71 per cent say couples should live together before marriage.

“This survey and previous research suggests that Canadians are becoming more ambivalent about marriage,” said Peter Jon Mitchell, a senior researcher at the Christian think tank Cardus. “Canadians seem largely unaware of the important differences between marriage and co-habitation pertaining to relationship stability for adults and the outcomes for children. A significant portion of Canadians hold views on marriage that established social science has debunked.

“On the whole, marriage remains more stable than co-habiting relationships,” he said.

Cardus research shows married people are better off in terms of health and overall happiness.

“Numerous studies demonstrate that married people tend to have higher recovery rates from cancer, lower risk of heart attacks and better odds of surviving heart attacks,” Mitchell said.

“Children from married parent homes are more likely to pursue post-secondary education compared to their peers from cohabiting homes,” Mitchell said. “They are less likely to get in trouble with the law, and less likely to be involved in a teen pregnancy.”

The Angus Reid survey shows, however, that 72 per cent of Canadians disagree that “children of unmarried parents will be less well-adjusted.”  

“A recovery of marriage culture would require social institutions that communicate the meaning of marriage and its value for individuals and society,” Mitchell said. “These institutions would need to support married couples who model marriage to the wider community.”

MacDonald agrees.

“As a Church, if we are going to strengthen awareness of the importance of marriage we are going to have to help families ‘become what they are’ as St. John Paul II said.”

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