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Sex education key to curb rise in lone parenthood, says Hanafin

Grainne Cunningham

Published 23/02/2010 | 05:00

SOCIAL and Family Affairs Minister Mary Hanafin yesterday stressed the importance of sex education as a means of tackling the continuing rise in the number of lone parents.

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Ms Hanafin was responding to the findings of the report, which identified a doubling of lone-parent families between 1996 and 2006.

Co-author Dr Pete Lunn of ESRI, suggested the Government should consider supporting lower income groups, where the risk of marital breakdown and lone parenting was significantly higher.

Dr Lunn co-wrote 'Family Figures, Family Dynamics and Family Types in Ireland, 1986-2006', together with Professor Tony Fahey of UCD and Carmel Hannan of the University of Limerick.

Ms Hanafin said that "it is not really surprising that lone parents are more likely to have a low socioeconomic background". She stressed the importance of the RSE (relationship and sexuality programme) being delivered in schools by the teachers themselves -- not doctors or nurses -- and she said boys' schools were particularly bad at implementing it.

The minister also welcomed the authors' recommendation for a public information campaign around the Civil Partnership Bill.

The report identified a four-fold increase in cohabiting couples between 1996 and 2006 and noted that the forthcoming legislation, if enacted, "will increase the options and protections afforded to a large and increasing number of couples".

One striking finding was the increase in the risk of marital breakdown following the birth of the first child. The authors note that "we cannot know whether policy interventions to support first-time parents would counter this increased risk, but it is something policy makers might consider".

The finding strengthens the case for better statutory paternity leave, at least for first children and possibly great generosity in public supports, the report states.

Ms Hanafin said welfare payments rise with the birth of the third child because of the higher risk of poverty among large families. She also asked "whether the stress (which caused the marriage to break down) may have been there before the child was born".

While conceding that the report found that low fertility could become an issue, Ms Hanafin said she did not believe there was a need to focus on it yet.

Irish Independent

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