This House of Commons Library debate briefing has been prepared in advance of a Westminster Hall debate on National Marriage and Mental Health Awareness Weeks. The debate will be led by Fiona Bruce MP and will take place at 1.30pm on Thursday 16 May 2019. The subject for this debate was determined by the Backbench Business Committee and an extract from Fiona Bruce’s proposal for a debate, from the Committee’s meeting on 7 May 2019, can be found below:

Fiona Bruce: Increasingly, research is showing that the attachment a child has with its parent or guardian is a central predictor for health and mental wellbeing, in adulthood but also in teenage years. That has come from the Mental Health Foundation. It says that toxic relationships and negative experiences can have a serious impact on young people’s mental health. The quality of our relationships can be as critical as not smoking and more important than eating well or exercising in adulthood. The Office for National Statistics did a survey that shows that children aged two to 16 living in families that struggle to function well are more likely to have mental health challenges than those from healthy, functioning families. The Marriage Foundation produced a number of statistics, and I will just quote two of them, which are quite interesting. Among teenage children—14-year-olds—living with both parents who are in a married relationship, 20% are likely to have mental health problems, compared with almost double—38%—of teenage children who are not living with both their parents who were never married.

We are all aware that mental health in young people is a major problem, and we do not believe that the issue of the parental relationship and the relationships that children grow up in have been sufficiently explored compared with, for example, social media. All the information that we are getting is that the close relationships that surround a child are far more important than the impact of social media. We are seeking a debate to explore the issue and to look at how the Government ought to be addressing this.

The Centre for Social Justice has just produced a report saying the same thing about the outcomes for children if you are not growing up in an intact family. They are more likely to underachieve at school, more likely to use drink and drugs, to get involved in delinquent or offending behaviour and indeed to go to prison, be unemployed or experience welfare dependency.


The reason we have linked these together is that next week, the week of 13 May, is both National Marriage Week and Mental Health Awareness Week. They do not normally coincide. I appreciate that this is short notice, but those of us who work on this issue all the time realised only last week that there is an opportunity here to explore the relationship between the two issues in a week when they are being looked at from both sides.

Mental Health Awareness Week is run by the Mental Health Foundation and takes place from 13-19 May 2019. The theme this year is Body Image:

The Mental Health Foundation also provides information and statistics on the importance of family and community relationships to mental health and wellbeing:

Marriage week is organised by  the Marriage Foundation, which was established to tackle the problem of family breakdown by championing stable relationships within marriage. Each Marriage Week has a theme, and this year’s theme is ‘Recipe for a Healthy Marriage’.

Further reading:

Westminster Hall debate on strengthening families, 8 February 2018

Commons Library briefing pack for the strengthening Families debate (CDP-2018-0028, 7 February 2018)

Westminster Hall debate on Marriage in Government Policy, 30 January 2018

Westminster Hall debate on Marriage Week, 1 February 2017 

The Commons Library has also published the following briefing papers on mental health which may be useful to Members when preparing for this debate:

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