Jeff Short talks with Brad Wilcox, professor of Sociology at University of Virginia about his research on the effects marriage and cohabitation has on children.

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Jeff: When you put out the results of a survey like this, does it get to the ears of government? Do they listen?

Brad: Well, that's a good question. I think today there's a little bit of a new openness on this front. At least in the States we're seeing more and more data showing that things like incarceration, child poverty are so closely connected to family stability. There's a new openness to revisit this question and realise it's not about being moralistic it's really about doing the best for the next generation and giving them more opportunities to do well and steer clear of things like the criminal justice system.

Jeff: You're a professor of sociology at the University of Virginia and a Fellow of the Institute for Family Studies. What drives you with a commitment towards marriage?

Brad: I was raised by a single mother, I salute single mothers; they do a heroic job. And many kids from single parent families turn out just fine but it is the case that it's a risk factor and it is the case that lots of single mothers in neighbourhoods tends to be a force for immobility, for cycles of poverty, for other kinds of social injustices. I think it's incumbent on all of us to figure out ways to give more kids coming up today an opportunity to be raised by their own two parents. Marriage is an institution that dramatically increases the odds that that will happen.

Jeff: I'm so pleased that you said that because we're not just having a pop at single mums or single dads or those that are stable within a cohabitation. We're just saying look, we're rolling the dice and it comes up better odds for the children if both parents are around and within marriage. We're not blinding people with statistics that's the research and that's where it's taken us.

Brad: The other interesting thing is there's new research that I'm doing where we actually see adults who most embrace the classic virtues of marriage like fidelity and seeing how important their marriage is to their kids, they are also the ones who enjoy the best marriages. The idea that marriage matters not just for the kids but the idea that marriage matters for the adults as well. We're just beginning to see that and hope to move the conversation forward in constructive ways.

Jeff: I think the best way you can show love for the child is to show love for the fellow parent.

Brad: Correct. Kids know when Mum and Dad love one another and that makes a huge difference to them emotionally and socially. CR

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