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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 29, No. 13. 1966.

Illegitimacy — from morality to meaning ?

Illegitimacy — from morality to meaning ?

It Is Well-Known to New Zealanders that every tenth baby in this country is born outside marriage—illegitimate in the common sense of the term.

But the so-called modern morality problem is posed much more sharply by less well-known statistics.

In New Zealand, in 1964:—

• over 27 per cent of first confinements of women took place outside marriage.

• approximately one bride in four was pregnant at the time of marriage.

• for brides under 21, approximately 40 per cent were pregnant at the time of marriage.

These figures, from Department of Statistics figures, show unequivocally that those who still base their ideas of immorality on ex-marital sexual intercourse are lost in a dream world of words.

Their arguments may well be valid and indeed probably represent a desirable standard —but they are irrelevant to the conduct of modern society.

They offer no solution to the needs of the children—and only add to the agony of many of the mothers.

The demands of the illegitimate child and the unstability of the "shotgun" marriage are challenges to New Zealand society. Each year, the proportion of marriages which break up grows slightly—at present, one in every 11 New Zealand marriages ends in divorce.

Alienated from current morality, threatened by a shifting society which places security at a discount, young New Zealand is ever more living today as if there were no tomorrow.

It may yet be possible to create a society which judges human relationships on values more meaningful than a statistical analysis of reproductive habits.

But the will to do so is not apparent.—H.B.R.