First comes love, second comes marriage, then comes the baby in the golden carriage…or maybe not.
Statistics show that the number of Irish people having children outside of marriage has increased from approximately 5,000-a-year in the 1980’s to 25,000 in 2010. The Central Statistics Office posted the research online and the change in statistics is staggering.
Is the increase due to Ireland becoming a diverse country? Is it due to the move away from the Catholic Church or is it simply because the government have made it an easy option with the financial help they offer?
We asked the people of Dublin why they think so many more people are having kids outside of marriage and here is what they have to say.
Noeleen Fulham, 57, Tallaght.
“I am not surprised at all that the increase is so big, I think it is all to do with the strict Catholic religion and its laws back then. As a 17-year-old growing up in the 80’s you would be terrified to have sex outside marriage. In 2015, religion in this country started to take [a] back seat and couples started living together rather than getting married. Also for some of the women who are not married to their partners, they could be counted as single and therefore are entitled to more benefits.”
Sorcha Geraghty, 22, Ballinteer.
“I think marriage is viewed very differently in our society, couples can live ten plus years together without getting married and it’s normal. I know my grandmother’s generation would look for a wedding ring on someone’s finger, whereas I wouldn’t even think about it! I still get the question of marriage and I don’t really see it as people looking down on me. It’s the idea that marriage produces a stable family unit for a child to grow up in. But we all know, in reality it doesn’t always work out like that, it’s an ideal.”
Claudia Kennedy, 32, Lucan.
“It’s not looked down on at all now if you’re not married with kids, it’s actually unusual if you come across a couple that are only married with no children. I think financially it is easier to be a lone parent nowadays too, with single parent’s benefits, the children’s allowance is much higher than it was back then and a lot of people get rent allowances if they have children now, that was never heard of years ago.”
Adam McGrane, 22, Kingswood.
“I think the Catholic religion has a big part to play in it. Years ago, people were kind of brainwashed to think that you should be condemned for having sex or using contraception but as people have got more educated in Ireland, the religion doesn’t have as much of a hold on them. Once the child is in a loving home and two people are happy, what does it matter if they are married or not? I think people actually admire lone parents now, I think fair play to them because it is a hard job to do on your own so no one should look down on that.”
Deirdre Kerslake, 50, Tymon.
“I think it’s easier to be a lone parent now because there are far more supports, both for childminding, and with social welfare too. Also as there is no longer a stigma attached to being an unmarried mother, girls are supported by their families now whereas they wouldn’t have been before. I think that now marriage is less important to a lot of people too, due to our tax system along with other things, but marriage does give stability and security to a family.”
Jessica McGrane, 30, Clondalkin.
“I think the government played a big part in lots of young girls getting pregnant outside of marriage ‘on purpose’ as it was not worth their while to get an education and make careers for themselves because it was easier to claim the many benefits available to them and for them to earn more than a working mother. Personally as a lone parent I did not claim any benefits as I work full time so I am not entitled to anything, which can be difficult to raise a child however there is a hell of a lot more available for unmarried, unemployed mothers nowadays so I think it is easier. I don’t think there is as much of a stigma now but I have personally been judged because my son has a different surname to me, for example when he was 4 months old, I was in a hospital with him on my own while his father was working and a doctor asked me in a smart tone of voice “is daddy not around no?” I was embarrassed and livid at the same time but I think it’s just that some people still have old fashioned beliefs, society as a whole has accepted it.”
John McNeill, 53, Crumlin.
“I think it is just too easy for people nowadays, the government are giving houses and a wage to people who have kids so obviously young people are going to look at that as an easy way to make a life. It is getting too difficult for a young couple who are both working to get a mortgage so why would you break your back doing that if you know that you can get pregnant and get everything off the government for free. Obviously this isn’t everyone, there are couples out there who work hard for everything they have and may not want marriage but I think in some circumstances, young girls see it as an easy option.”
Denise Byrne, 51, Palmerstown.
“I think the numbers have increased so much because unmarried mothers are given money and a house now, before there was no support for them. I think in some parts of society; it is still looked down on to have kids outside of marriage but I think that is just down to religion.”
Louise Kenny, 30, Crumlin.
“I don’t think there is any stigma attached to having children outside of marriage, having two children outside of marriage myself, I think I have only had one comment said to me about not being married and that was from an older Christian man who obviously had the same views that were probably forced on him from a young age. I think it is definitely easier to be a lone parent in today’s society. Back then a man could walk away from an unwanted child and that was that but now they have the family court to answer to and are forced to pay maintenance for their child, which is only right. I also think most people now would put having children and owning their own house before getting married.”