Dodgy student alcohol and sex survey

I have just taken part in the Tertiary Student Health Project survey, an Otago University project looking into alcohol use and sexual behaviour among students. Unfortunately the questions were designed such that even myself, a happily married monogomous father with no risk of contracting STDs, would have sounded like a risk-taking no-condom-using childless student! There just weren’t options to choose to describe my actual situation, which will make the results highly questionable.

Fortunately they had a comments section at the end, this is what I wrote:

I have a number of concerns about the accuracy of the data collected in this survey.

Your questions on sexual behaviour are designed assuming all sexual behaviour is casual. Although you would never guess it reading the response to this survey, many people are still married before having sex. If you did not realise this, you may have just consulted with one sector of the student population in designing your survey, and it may be advisable to consult wider before the next one. Your survey equates “a long-term relationship” (whatever that is defined as) and engagement with marriage, when there is a world of difference between the three, especially in terms of duration and break-up rates.

You never ask in what situation the respondent had their first sexual contact, which is far more likely to have been influenced by alcohol than what they happened to be doing in the past 12 months.

You also ask whether you have ever unintentionally got someone pregnant, without asking whether you had intentionally got someone pregnant – there seems to be an assumption that pregnancy is always accidental and undesirable, which is nonsense. As a result your survey will under-record the true rate of pregnancy among students.

You ask about condom use without asking about risk factors for STDs. For example:
– You ask whether you have only had the one partner, but not whether if you have had more you have tested clear for STDs and thus have none to pass on.
– You never ask whether your partner was a virgin before you, or whether she has tested clear of STDs.
If both partners are clear of STDs, they may be unlikely to use condoms. This will bias condom use rates downwards, while having no bearing on STD risk.
– You have equated a long-term-relationship (“long-term” for one respondent may mean 10 years, for another 1 month: high break-up rate and children are usually not desired) and engagement, with marriage (lowest break-up rate as intended to be permanent, children are generally desired), so the condom use between these relationships will be markedly different but never identified in your survey.
– You never asked whether the respondent was trying for a baby.
– You never asked whether the respondent’s partner was using alternative forms of contraception. (You may have asked female respondents this, but you never asked male respondents, despite the major influence this will have on male condom use. Remember not all partners are students.)

Because of these issues your survey is likely to show a low rate of condom use and therefore imply a high risk of STD contraction, which could be used to push policies encouraging condom use on campus, when in actual fact you have no idea what the actual rate of condom use among those at risk of contracting STDs is, because you never asked the right questions.

Having been in this survey I will have to be highly skeptical of the results when they are published unfortunately, especially when making just a couple of extra answers available to pick could have made this information actually useful. However students are behaving this survey will come up with some statistics that could be used to push a particular political line (that of the Family Planning Association), rather than obtaining well-rounded factual data that can be used by people of all opinions. This is very disappointing, because alcohol and sex are highly important issues at university, and need to be understood well in order to help students.

I trust that you will publicise the actual questions asked alongside the results, to ensure people can judge the accuracy for themselves. It would be advisable to consult wider in formulating the questions for your next survey.

Unfortunately, I must advise you to take the results of the Tertiary Student Health Project with a pinch of salt when they are finally published. Which is a great shame, this project is no doubt expensive and could easily have been very useful.

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Marriage better than cohabitation

The Telegraph has a great article on why marriage is far better than cohabitation for children:

An in-depth study claims almost half of babies are now born outside marriage in Britain.

It goes on to warn that live-in relationships tend to be much shorter than marriages, and therefore many of these babies will end up being raised by just one parent.

The report, based on an analysis of 10,000 households over 18 years, says there are “long-term negative consequences” for those who grow up with either just a mother or a father.

Children in one-parent families do worse at school, are less likely to get good jobs and suffer more health problems, it claims.

“The time couples spend living together in cohabiting unions before either marrying each other or separating is usually very short, the median duration being about two years.

“The unions that produce children are much less likely to be converted into marriage and more likely to break up than childless ones.”

He said only 35 per cent of cohabiting couples stay together until their children turn 16, compared with 70 per cent of married couples.

So not only is it bad for children to be born outside of wedlock, as they are more likely to be raised by only one parent, but if a couple has children while living together they are less likely to actually get married. This is worrying, considering the number of couples who live together these days and then may consider getting married once having children.

But none of this is new. We have always known marriage was best. Even some strong liberals recognise this. Why is this not accepted by parliament? Why does it take a Christian party to stand up and say we need to promote marriage? It is obviously far better than cohabitation and so should be promoted by all politicians.

The policies of parliament over the past few years, such as civil unions, and giving cohabiting couples essentially the same rights and responsibilities as married couples (such as 50/50 division of assets), have not been based on what is best for children. Rather they are based on ideology.

Marriage is a contract between two people to stick together for life. It exists to provide a secure home to raise children in. It is basically a contract that the two now wish to be considered as one – ie all assets are owned collectively (to be split 50/50 in the event of divorce, or all inherited by the other in the event of death), each has the responsibilities of the next of kin, one for tax purposes (income splitting) etc. To force the conditions of this contract on people who have not signed it (cohabiting couples) is not only immoral, but a breach of basic contract law.

It is akin to forced marriages, which most of us find unacceptable, but is in fact worse than this. If parents arrange a marriage of their child against the child’s will, at least the parents will generally have given some thought to who they are marrying the child to. But if the government passes a law effectively forcing people into a marriage situation, this applies whoever they happen to be living with – and in some cases this might be someone undesirable whom no parent would ever force their child into a marriage with. Somehow we find it abhorrent when parents force a child into marriage, but perfectly ok when the government effectively does this indiscriminately to thousands of couples at the stroke of a pen.

We must rebuild a marriage culture, and encourage and strengthen marriage, rather than undermining it.

Hat tip: Family First

Wedding on a budget

If you get the Herald on Sunday, you might have noticed this article, on having a wedding on a tight budget, and a second article on the example of our wedding, with a nice photo of my wife Sarah and myself. Alice Hudson points out that:

While reports say the average Kiwi wedding costs $19,000, the budget crisis is forcing couples to go to great lengths to keep costs down – and hopefully still afford a worthwhile honeymoon.

Some engaged couples, such as Christchurch’s David Moyle and fiancee Kelly, have decided to put off their nuptials indefinitely.

They’ve told prospective guests “We couldn’t afford to have a wedding and a baby”.

This situation is quite common. People are choosing to live together rather than getting married because of the perceived cost of a wedding. This is very unfortunate, because marriage forces you to actually think about whether you are prepared to stick together for the rest of your lives, and provide a stable home to raise children in. It is on the other hand easy to start living with someone to “see how it goes”, end up having children and realise later that you aren’t prepared to stick together. However high the divorce rate gets, defacto relationships still split up more than marriages, and when this happens it is terribly hard on children. Marriage is important as it forces you to think about the future rather than just going with the flow.

But weddings don’t have to be expensive. You can of course get married in the registry office for a couple of hundred dollars. But even a fancy wedding doesn’t have to cost the earth.

Our wedding cost around $5-$6000, which got us (with a lot of very generous help from friends and family):

  • A lovely church in the country, that could take 200 guests
  • Wedding dress, bridesmaids dresses, suit hire, flowers
  • A professional photographer
  • Custom-made rings (we invested in these as they and the photos are the only things you keep from the day).
  • A Rolls-Royce and an Armstrong Siddeley for wedding cars (borrowed from friends and family)
  • An afternoon tea for 200 guests in a country hall (catered for by the local netball club)
  • A professionally iced wedding cake (baked by my mother)
  • …. etc etc.

You don’t need to spend $19,000 for a lovely wedding! I cannot think how our day could have been better. Having an afternoon tea instead of a reception meal was great as we could invite everyone (including the extra people who happen to turn up to the wedding on the day) along, rather than having to make a short list of “special” guests and offending those on the fringes of the list who get left off… The fancier you want it though, the more help you need from family and friends.

Our snazzy wedding!

Our snazzy wedding!

If you want to get married, go for it! It doesn’t have to cost the earth. Marriage is the best thing you’ll ever do. Don’t worry too much about the wedding, the wedding is unimportant in the grand scheme of things. Getting married is about the Marriage, which lasts the rest of your life, NOT about the one-day wedding. Big difference. Focus on making the marriage work. Do a pre-marriage course, it is the best investment you’ll ever make, Marriage Ministries does great courses through churches throughout the country – if I can only offer one piece of advice, that would be it.

P.S. The article says we were married on January 14, and have a 3 month old baby, which could give quite the wrong impression if someone thought it meant January 2008 rather than January 2006!

Police officer killed in Mangere

A plain clothes police officer was shot dead in Mangere early this morning. This is a tragic incident. There has been a lot of discussion of what we should do about it over at Kiwiblog.

There are two main points to take from this:

  • If the police officer had been armed, he may have been able to defend himself and we might not be reading these headlines this morning. Should plainclothes officers in covert operations against drugs like this be armed? This is something well worth considering.
  • Arming the officer would not have stopped the crime occurring – we would instead be waking up to news of a shootout in Mangere, possibly still with a dead cop, possibly with a dead criminal, possibly just with injuries on both sides. Although this would have been better as the cop would have more chance of surviving it doesn’t solve the real problem – why the crime occurred in the first place.

To stop crimes like this occurring we must first stop people feeling a need to get into crime in the first place. Many criminals come from broken families, raised without a father as a male role model they seek out gangs for solidarity and for role models to look up to. It is downhill from there on.

We must support families, promote marriage (a commitment which in general results in more stable families than defacto relationships), allow parents to discipline their children effectively, and demand accountability from fathers towards their children. But Labour has been doing exactly the opposite to this over the past 9 years.

Only by tackling the root issues behind crime will we ever solve this dreadful problem. I sympathise deeply with the family of this cop. He is the 28th cop killed on duty here since 1890, his family join a long line of families in the same situation. We must have the guts to break through the PC wishywashy rubbishy policies of Labour and actually prevent this occurring in future.

EDIT:

Family Party press release.