According to a New York Times article (probably requires free registration), more and more couples in Europe, especially Norway and Iceland, are having and raising kids together without getting married. And apparently largely without stigma. In Iceland, 62% of all kids born in 1999 were born to unwed parents. The article suggests that many such parents (across Europe) are long-term couples who simply see no need to get married. And in cases where there's a single parent (such as when these unmarried couples split up), the social structures are in place to support the kids financially:
"We have little commitment to the institution of marriage, that's true, but we do have a commitment to parenthood," said Kari Moxnes, a 57-year-old professor of sociology at the University of Trondheim. "It's not socially acceptable any more in Scandinavia to break the parental relationship."
Fascinating stuff. I'm particularly intrigued by this line:
In Britain, where the cabinet is split over whether the government should be in the business of promoting marriage, Prime Minister Tony Blair's chief spokesman, Alastair Campbell, has three children with his companion, Fiona Millar. . . .
It would never have occurred to my provincial American mind that a government would even consider not being involved in promoting marriage. I mean, I certainly approve of that attitude; I'm just so used to the pro-"family" rhetoric that pervades American debate on marriage that I assumed governments elsewhere were similarly inclined.