Providing counseling for couples: A groundbreaking study in France highlights that “Regardless of the couple’s legal status, the stability of their relationship has a positive impact on the well-being of individuals and a substantial effect on public finances.”
The survey was conducted by “VersLeHaut”, (meaning “Upward Thinking”) a specialized think-tank for young people, families and education. Specialists in the field and expert civil servants gather with young people and families to think, basing their reflections on scientific studies and research. Their goal is to propose sensible and relevant options adapted to the educational challenges of today.
The recently published https://www.verslehaut.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/p.1-116-VLH-Ruptures-conjugales-Web.pdf 100-page report, is entitled “Preventing Marital Breakdown to Protect Children – Why Government Policies Should Include Counseling for Couples “.
The study was carried out with the assistance of “Familya” and “Aire de Famille”. Familya offers counseling and specialized support for couples, parents and young people, to help prevent family breakups and the precarious situations resulting from separations. Aire de Famille, was the first parental center founded in France which led to the creation of the National Federation of Parental Centers. https://airedefamille.org/ Although sometimes unavoidable, there is a considerable human toll to pay when a family breaks up. In France, although more than 7 out of 10 children live with both parents, every year the number of young people with separated parents continues to increase. The numbers have more than doubled in less than 30 years: 145,000 children in 1993, compared to 380,000 in 2020, according to the “INSEE” statistics (French National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies).
The survey lists the main consequences of separation, primarily concerning the relationships between parents and children. In 2018, it was noted that 28% of children lived with just one parent. For minors, 25% were totally deprived of at least one parent 100% of the time (government statistics from “DRESS”). The data also demonstrated that family breakups have an effect on children’s physical and emotional health, and on their performance in school. Children living in single-parent families repeat classes more often in primary school than those living with both parents.
In 2018, according to the annual census recorded by INSEE, 12% of single parents have always lived alone, and almost all single parents are women. Separation strongly impacts living standards with a third of all single-parent households living below the level of poverty. After separation, women experience an average of 20% loss in their standard of living, compared to only a 3% decrease for men.
Single parenthood is not only a heavy burden for a family’s budget, but also for the government’s budget. Indeed, the study shows the impact of public expenses dedicated to separated families on the government financial register. For example, for a modest family with one child, the cost of government allocations for housing and solidarity is approximately 9,500 €/ year.
This study reveals one main point: from a strategic point of view, a government family policy would be beneficial for the stability of couples, as explained by Julien Damon, Political Sciences Professor and Sociologist, at the French Business School, “HEC” (Higher Commercial Studies) who wrote the foreword for the study.
Today, the government family policy is for all parents, and it provides assistance in case of separation, especially by subsidizing family mediation.
The study assesses the impact of the government’s “CCF” services (Counseling for Families and Couples) and reveals the positive effects both for the couples and for public finances of helping the couples stay together.
Out of the 254 couples who received couple counseling, 101 couples “intended to separate,” but ultimately, following counseling, 74 couples decided to stay together. In 73% of cases, the “quality of the relationship was improved” and in 36%, there was a “decrease in conflict”. Thus, following counseling, 73% of separations were avoided.
Julien Damon, author of more than 25 books including “What Do I Know?” dealing with family policies and recomposed families asserts: “It is very important, both for reasons of personal happiness and for state finances, for the government’s family policy to promote the mediations which help couples stay together. This is a factor of success in life as well as for the proper management of public funds.”