England rugby star Courtney Lawes has called on the Government to incentivise marriage, as a new report reveals cohabiting couples are four times more likely to separate.
Writing in the Telegraph, the 31-year-old lock insists: “A stable family means one where the parents are married.”
Lawes, who plays on the second row for Northampton where he was brought up by his father Linford and his English mother Valerie, spoke out to coincide with the publication of a new report by the Centre for Social Justice, warning that family instability is one of the leading causes for negative outcomes for children.
He reveals his own half brother did not enjoy the stable upbringing he did, and ended up in jail, and questions if his life might have been different had he “grown up in a stable home”.
He said: “My Dad tried to be there for him as much as he could be. But unfortunately that didn’t prevent my brother from adopting a bad lifestyle – drugs and criminality that eventually ended in prison.
“I’m forced to ask the question of how his life might have been different if he had grown up in a stable home.”
The sibling, who he does not name, is now “doing great for himself and raising a son of his own.”
He added: “This was not an exceptional story in our community: almost one in five Afro-Caribbean fathers do not raise their children.
“How do we help counter this trend? Maybe the answer is marriage.”
The England international likens the “total commitment” of marriage to winning a game of rugby, saying: “You must be prepared to invest time and energy, you must sacrifice to play your best.”
‘Family Structure Still Matters’, written by former Catholic Herald editor Cristina Odone for the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) think tank, found cohabiting couples are four times more likely to split up, while 70 per cent of young offenders come from families where parents have separated.
Meanwhile, children aged five to ten are twice as likely to suffer a mental health disorder if their parents cohabit rather than marry (six per cent to 12 per cent).
The report highlights how income is a major determinant in whether parents get married and therefore family stability. Some 83 per cent of high earners are married and only 11 per cent cohabit, while among the poorest only 55 per cent marry and 21 per cent cohabit.
A teenager growing up in the poorest 20 per cent of households is two thirds more likely to experience family breakdown than a teenager in the top 20 per cent.
In June, Lawes was embroiled in a Twitter storm for advocating marriage in response to footballer Marcus Rashford’s free school meals campaign.
He was accused of “snobbery” and called “an absolute scumbag” for tweeting: “Maybe now would be a good time to bring some attention to the importance of being financially secure and preferably married before having kids? This would go a long way to treating a big part of the issue.”
The 6ft 7in powerhouse married property developer Jessica Devaney in 2015 and the couple have a daughter Nelly, six, son Teddy, five, and two-year-old twins Otto and Hugo.