Archive for the 'Families & relationships' Category

Same-sex attitudes, Australia and the UK

A favourite theme of some expat gay friends living in London is how much more progressive Europe is compared to Australia on gay issues. The latest trigger was this story about how, allegedly, straight male UK uni students are now happy to kiss each other on the lips.

I’m quite willing to believe that London, or at least central London, is the gayest place on the planet. But just as data is not the plural of anecdote, a lot of well-tolerated gay men in a concentrated space doesn’t necessarily tell us a lot about attitudes overall. So I went looking for some comparable survey evidence.

The British Survey of Social Attitudes has a very similar questions in similar years to the various Australian surveys I pieced together in this post earlier this year. Read the rest of this entry »

Is demography destiny in public opinion?

The latest survey on gay marriage finds 62% of voters in favour and about a third against. This is pretty much unchanged from last year. The issue has gone up the political agenda, thanks largely to the Greens (how I hate to say anything nice about them…), but so far opinion is not moving much.

But the demographics of this issue remain very striking, and look to be a case of demography as destiny in public opinion. The case against gay marriage seems lost. Eventually politics will catch up with opinion, so I think it now a case of when we get gay marriage rather than if.

The jobs for divorce

Overcoming Bias blog reports on an interesting American study of divorce rates by occupation. It found, among other things, that

Dancers and choreographers registered the highest divorce rates (43.1 percent), followed by bartenders (38.4 percent) and massage therapists (38.2 percent). … Three types of engineers — agricultural, sales and nuclear engineers — were represented among the 10 occupations with the lowest divorce rates.

Using 2006 census data for people aged 30 to 49 years I found that there were very similar patterns here. Of the groups I examined bar attendants and baristas were the most divorced or separated, with massage therapists second, and actors and dancers fourth.

As in the US, engineers were among the least likely to divorce, with accountants and solictors only slightly more prone to marital breakdown.

Class background and financial situation probably explains some of the differences. But plumbers, bricklayers and carpenters have slightly more stable marriages than psychologists and human resource professionals.

For most occupations, there is a general approach to marriage – those most likely to divorce are generally also least likely to get married in the first place (a negative correlation of about .75 between divorce rates and marriage rates).

I think personality types may explain some of these differences. Read the rest of this entry »

Sexual attitudes over time #3: Extramarital sex

While attitudes to premarital sex and homosexuality have become more liberal over time, by contrast attitudes to extramarital sex seem to have become slightly more conservative.

Over time the question has changed from one which is gender specific to one that is not, but with both asked in the 1993 National Social Science Survey it seems that it does not make much difference. Both questions pick up on the same attitude to adultery.

Read the rest of this entry »

Sexual attitudes over time #2: Same-sex relations

While attitudes to premarital sex have been fairly stable since the early 1990s, attitudes to homosexuality have changed a lot. In 1993 more than half of the respondents to that year’s National Social Science Survey – 56% – though that sex between adults of the same sex was ‘always wrong’ and only a quarter thought that it was ‘not wrong at all’.

By 2009 the proportion of adults thinking that same-gender sex was ‘always wrong’ had decreased to 37% and those believing that it was ‘not wrong at all’ had increased to 47%, with another 10% thinking that it was wrong only sometimes. Still, a very large minority retains significant reservations about the morality of homosexuality.


All surveys, with minor variations in the opening: What do you think about sexual relations between two adults of the same sex?
1984 NSSS, 1993 NSSS, 1999-2000 International Social Survey, 2009 AuSSA:
Read the rest of this entry »

Sexual attitudes over time #1: Premarital sex

The Australian Survey of Social Attitudes 2009 has some questions on sexual attitudes, which lets us track some trends since the 1980s. Today, attitudes to premarital sex.

The figure below shows that when the National Social Science Survey 1986-87 was taken casual sex wasn’t viewed positively by most respondents, but when the couple were in love a small majority thought that it was ok. The 1993 NSSS and the 2009 AuSSA show that attitudes have become more liberal since the 1980s, though it is not clear whether respondents in 1993 and 2009 would have distinguished between casual and relationship sex if asked.

Read the rest of this entry »

Welfare quarantining for the middle class

The Education Tax Rebate – whether Labor’s version or the more expensive Coalition version announced today – is the march of welfare quarantining beyond the income-support reliant lower classes into the middle class. The eligible group of FTB A recipients includes all but about the top 25% of families.

Parents can get their welfare handout, but only so long as they spend it on a list of things approved by the state.

In practice, this rebate isn’t really going to be a major behaviour changer. Most parents will spend more than maximum rebatable amount anyway, making the rebate just a paperwork intensive form of FTB A for parents of school-age kids.

But it is a bad precedent for the state seeking to monitor more of family life. How long before nanny wants receipts for healthy food, or some other paternalist preoccupation of the day?

Family finances under the ‘new familism’

The IPA Review has published an article by me on what I call the ‘new familism’. The article tracks how since the 1970s the left and right have each developed their own ideologies of the family. Despite significant differences of intellectual justification and policy detail, left and right converge on significantly increased state support for people with children.

The table below from the latest HILDA statistical report highlight just how much those with dependent children improved their financial position in the 2000s.


Read the rest of this entry »

The start of gay marriage and the end of gay culture?

Commenter Lomlate makes the interesting suggestion that, contrary to what Bill Muehlenberg suggests, gay marriage poses a bigger threat to the current nature of gay life than it does to the nature of straight sexual relationships.

Though some commenters argued that gay sexual culture is what you get when there is no need to persuade sex-shy and relationship-oriented women, and that straight men would behave the same way if they had the chance, Lomlate suggests that gay sexual culture is what you get when gay people are excluded from the relationships that straight people aspire to and mostly attain. The more accepted gays become, and the more gays can imagine themselves having ‘normal’ relationships, the less need there will be for a separate gay culture or community.

Lomlate cites Andrew Sullivan on the ‘end of gay culture’, and this passage sums up what Sullivan thinks is going on:

A gay child born today will grow up knowing that, in many parts of the world and in parts of the United States, gay couples can get married just as their parents did. From the very beginning of their gay lives, in other words, they will have internalized a sense of normality, of human potential, of self-worth–something that my generation never had and that previous generations would have found unimaginable. That shift in consciousness is as profound as it is irreversible.

That was written in 2005. The Australian Not So Private Lives survey from last year showed just how strongly the gay generations differ in how they see their relationship possibilities. The youngest respondents are twice as likely to personally aspire to marriage as the oldest respondents. Read the rest of this entry »

Could the gay ‘lifestyle’ undermine monogamous marriage?

New publisher Pantera Press’s Why vs Why series gives longtime gay activist Rodney Croome and longtime family conservative activist Bill Muehlenberg equal space to put their arguments for and against gay marriage, and rebut each other (with the debate continuing online). It’s a good summary of common arguments for and against gay marriage.

While I generally preferred Croome’s stance, he struggled a bit with one of Muehlenberg’s arguments. Essentially, Muehlenberg thinks that gay marriages would differ from current marriages in more than just the gender mix. He cites multiple gay sources on how, to put it mildly, long-lasting monogamous relationships are not the norm in the gay community. He doesn’t want the idea of an ‘open’ marriage to get started by extending marriage rights to a community that may be reluctant to give up its old ‘homosexual lifestyle’ ways. Read the rest of this entry »