Geldof: two parents are best (Split families damage society)

Started by Mr Benn, Oct 04, 2004, 10:20 AM

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Mr Benn

Geldof: two parents are best
John Elliott, from the Sunday Times (UK) 3rd October, 2004.
Split families 'damage society'

BOB GELDOF, the pop star turned Third World campaigner, has made a passionate plea for children to be brought up by two parents, claiming the "because I'm worth it" society is creating a damaging number of single-parent families.

The former punk rocker has emerged as an unlikely champion of the family, arguing that marriage should be taken more seriously and greater value should be attached to domestic life.

Speaking in a television documentary, Geldof on Marriage, he says: "Marital breakdown costs the state about 15 billion a year and most of that is spent on single-parent benefits.

"I know it's uncool, and I truly have no desire to cause upset or offence by saying this, but the truth of every study is clear: dual-parent upbringing produces healthier, better educated children. That's it."

The consequences of divorce, on the other hand, are dire, he says. "Children of divorced parents are much more likely to do worse at school, commit crimes, go to prison and more likely to commit suicide. Divorced men live shorter lives than married men and are more likely to get cancer."

He blames the "because I'm worth it" society for leading people to abandon marriages for what he regards as self- indulgent reasons.

"We hop from product to product, channel to channel, station to station and, most damagingly, lover to lover, trading each one in for a new model as soon as passion fades," he says.

"Perhaps a lot of it is down to an overblown sense of self. We imagine ourselves to be free people, but we should not be free to destroy others, especially children. We have confused freedom with the idea of choice, we have become voracious consumers, not just of stuff, but of the soul."

Geldof, former lead singer with the Boomtown Rats who was acclaimed for his work on Live Aid, experienced the difficulties of single parenthood himself after his wife Paula Yates left him and later died. He believes that the government should act to protect the institution of marriage by making it more difficult to divorce.

"This marriage stuff is a serious thing. It is not to be entered into and dissolved on a whim and to make light of it is a profound mistake. Yet that is precisely what the law allows us and encourages us to do.

Geldof laments what he sees as the decline in the importance attached to family life. "Has the need to work hard, to produce, to earn, to spend, become more critical to the government -- and perhaps our own emptier selves -- than the truer world of the home?" he asks.

"Have we so devalued domestic life and its culture of companionship and warmth and nurture and safety and calm to the point of being almost irrelevant? "We're all encouraged to put work first and domestic matters such as our families and our relationships second -- and those who don't are regarded with suspicion . . . have we completely lost the idea of home being important? "You know when you come home . . . and she's doing something nice, like making a meal or something, I don't know if its just me, it's so feminine, it's so sexy."

Geldof on Marriage will be broadcast on Monday, October 11, on Channel 4 and a second programme, Geldof on Fathers, will go out the following day. He is already known as a campaigner for the rights of divorced fathers.

Official figures released last month showed that the number of divorces reached than 150,000 in 2003 -- an increase of 4% on the previous year and, at 14 for every 1,000 married people, the highest rate for seven years.

Men in their early thirties and women in their late twenties are the most likely to face divorce. Among married men in the 30 to 34-year-old age group, 28 out of 1,000 get divorced. Among married women aged 25 to 29, the rate is 29 per 1,000.

Geldof's own family life descended into turmoil when Yates left him for Michael Hutchence, lead singer of the rock group INXS, in 1995.

Geldof, 50 this week, eventually won custody of their three daughters after a bitter legal battle, and also became the guardian of Yates's daughter by Hutchence. The INXS frontman was found hanged in his hotel room in Sydney, Australia, in 1997 and Yates died of a drug overdose in 2000.

Geldof also argues that too much emphasis is placed on the ephemeral attractions of the wedding day, without thought for the real meaning of the marriage vow.

He says pre-marital classes might go some way to making the scale of the commitment clear. "Why is it you cannot support the institution of marriage without sounding terrifically old-fashioned or right-wing? It's wrong.

"We've got to take back the right to speak about the most important institution that man has evolved over thousands of years."

Paula Hall, a spokeswoman for Relate, the relationship guidance group, said last week that divorce was not always wrong. "It allows people to leave bad marriages," she said.

"Because more people are divorcing, it doesn't mean there are more unhappy marriages. I would suggest there are less unhappy marriages than there used to be because people get out whereas before they were stuck in them."

Mr Benn

If you are in the UK don't forget to watch these documentaries on Monday night on Channel 4.

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