I have been talking about strengthening marriages for stable families for several weeks now. In 1991, sociologist and scholar, Dr. Belen Medina had written about urbanization and industrialization weakening family ties (Medina 1991). Almost two decades later, Dr. Lourdes Carandang wrote that family stresses have increased and sounded the call to strengthen families before they completely break down (Carandang and Chua 2008). In today’s times, societal realities show the importance of strengthening marriages and families for the sake of our nation’s future.
Various researches show the following societal realities:
1. There is increasing prevalence of “live-in” or cohabitation as a “trial marriage” or test of living together (Abalos 2014; Williams, Kabamalam, and Ogena 2006). This is common among those in lower socioeconomic status but I also find it true among middle-income couples in subdivisions. Reasons cited are the unaffordable cost of getting married for the poor, the prohibitive cost of ending a legal marriage if the relationship does not work, or cohabiting has become accepted in the family or community. Jeofrey Abalos’ research (2017) on trends in divorce and separation in the country consider cohabitation separation as marital dissolution in his research.
2. There is an increasing trend in separation and annulment in the country. Women with higher risks than their male counterparts of ending a marital union are those with higher levels of education, those who were already cohabiting without marrying in their first union, and those who were raised in urban settings (Abalos 2017). Data from the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) showed that 53% of men and 75% of women who filed a petition to end their marriage were 25 years old and below. About 40% of these petitioners have lived together for 5 years or less while 26% have been together for 6-10 years (Abalos 2017). This means that those who got married in their teens or early twenties did not last long in the marriage. On the other hand, Williams, Kabamalam, and Ogena’s research showed that there is lesser chance of cohabiting among those raised by both biological parents, frequent attendance at religious services, and had at least some college education.
3. There is prevalence of premarital sex (Fernandez 2014) and teenage pregnancies (YAFS 4, 2013) that lead to either cohabitation or solo parenting. The Young Adult and Fertility Survey 4 (YAFS 4) showed a trend in “living in” conditions: 44.9% in 1994, 57.1 in 2002, and 65.3% in 2013, with over one in 10% teenage moms were never married. The U.P. Population Institute cited the following reasons for becoming pregnant among teenagers: “unplanned sexual encounters (“getting caught up in the moment”) and peer pressure; lack of information on safe sex; breakdown of family life and lack of good female role models in the family; and absence of accessible, adolescent-friendly clinics. By 2016, The Philippine Statistics Authority indicated that 49.2% of the 1,731,289 babies born had unwed mothers. Teen parents, aside from the health risks to both mother and child, are also most likely to seek an abortion. In 2008, an estimated 560,000 induced abortions took place, 90,000 sought medical help for complications, and 1,000 women died in the process (Center for Reproductive Rights 2010). Teen pregnancies have become a public health concern that need to be addressed.
4. There is a continued exodus of OFWs thereby impacting families. The Center for Migrant Advocacy said that since 2001, two-thirds of migrant workers kept returning as rehires, which meant being away from their families for years at a time (2011). One study of 30 transnational families showed the average length of separation of migrant fathers away from the family as 13.79 years while that of mothers away 11.42 years (Parreñas 2005b, Their children were mainly growing up without them and this has contributed to the growing millions of solo parents in the country, estimated to be 14 million based on a World Health Organization-funded study by the Department of Health and the University of the Philippines-National Institute for Health.
5. There is a concerted effort from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community in the country to push for their rights and advocate for their acceptance in all fronts. The 2019 Metro Manila Pride March last June 29 was attended by around 70,000 (Magsambol 2019). There is already an LGBTS church that officiates mass weddings of same sex couples in Manila (Armas 2018). Senator Pia Hontiveros is also pushing for the passing of the sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE) equality bill in both Congress and the Senate. These efforts will begin to change the face and composition of Filipino families.
These are the sad realities that warrant more concerted efforts to reach, support, and strengthen Filipino families in these challenging times.