Jeff Short spoke with Harry Benson from The Marriage Foundation, who says that the fact that more marriages are staying together, is good for teenagers' mental health.

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Harry: When people say you should stay together for the sake of the kids, actually you shouldn't. You should stay together for the sake of each other, and if you do that you are much more likely to make it.

I always say, and I think lots of people say, the best gift that you can give your kids is to love your other half. If you love their mother or their father, that's the most important thing.

If you're staying together simply for the sake of the kids then I don't think that's good enough motivation to make it happen.

If you want to stay together for the sake of the kids your priority has to be to love one another. If you do that then you're much more likely to make that happen. Otherwise you're doing it under sufferance.

The trick is, make a decision about the future; be friends, be kind to one another, and who can resist kindness? I always think kindness is the most important thing of all.

Jeff: The things you're saying here are based on large national surveys, you haven't just gone and asked your friends, this is serious data.

Harry: This is not pulling things out of a hat. We used a thing called the Family Resources Survey, which is an enormous survey of tens of thousands of families. It's done every year and it's different families each time.

We've also used an enormous household survey called Understanding Society, which surveys 40,000 families. They get surveyed once a year but it's the same families.

So there are two different surveys, one that surveys a different group of families every year and one that surveys the same group of families every year. You've got two different ways of approaching the problem and the answer's the same in both cases. There are fewer teenagers today living with one or no parent than there were 10 years ago and that's got to be good news.

Jeff: Does that run with parallel data from the Office of National Statistics? That's about people who've been married for 15 years so. It's not just the early years, the number of people splitting then has fallen too.

Harry: The really big change that has happened in the last 20 years is that divorce rates in the early years of marriage have collapsed.

There is one specific issue: fewer wives are being granted divorces in the first 10 years.

There has been no change in husbands filing for divorce, all of it is fewer wives filing for divorce and that's what makes me think it's men doing better. The men who are getting married today are more serious about their marriages so there is more deciding going on rather than sliding. And that's really the key to commitment; people making decisions rather than sliding into relationships and then finding they get stuck. CR

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