While the majority of young couples seem to be following a linear progression in their relationship along traditional lines, others are starting families away from the established structures of society and even outside legality (Galea 2007, Fenech 2011). In Malta, the situation has its unique characteristics. What we have been witnessing in recent years is a combination of factors with important repercussions. According to family scholar Abela (2009a), the unity of the institutionalised family and the need to sustain marriage as a permanent relationship continue to be important values that are entrenched in our culture. Moreover, the vast majority of Maltese university students still want to marry for life (Abela 2009a). Conversely, the rapid rise in teenage pregnancies, single parenthood, widows, middle-aged divorcees, unmarried teen-aged mums and the fact that about one third of the children born in Malta each year are outside wedlock (NSO 2011), might indicate this rapid transformation. All the above elements surely cannot be taken as one spectrum in social analysis. Bugeja (2012) states that the disintegration of the traditional Maltese nuclear family in an increasing number of local communities is the principal source of so much social unrest and misery. According to Galea (2007), being committed to one`s partner and to the relationship remains a challenge for all married persons. Then again the challenges for younger couples are becoming more complex as the crisis in commitment is manifested as early as in the courtship (Tufigno as cited in Galea 2007). The serious nature of the problem we are facing in Malta, mainly in the privatisation of relationships and the institutionalised family life, should not be underestimated (Galea 2007). People today seem to have a different way of understanding a traditional family commitment than from the past. The transition is from a commitment to an institution to a more personal bond. Nevertheless, in a society where the dual-worker family is becoming the norm, creating a mutual culture that supports the values of an ideal worklife balance has become the clarion call to policy making in the realm of social policy (Rizzo 2009). In reality, policymakers do not have a choice about whether or not to affect family life; they already do this through their actions and inactions. Policymakers have substantial impacts on families through the choices they make and the directions they take (Riley & Bogenshneider, 2006). According to Begenschneider & Corbett, (2010b), family policy is still not a term that is widely recognised or commonly used by policymakers, journalists, or the public. It has not yet achieved the states of economic or environmental policy, nor is it even recognised in its
own right as a subfield of social policy. Public policy has an immediate impact on whether certain family forms are functional or not and it would already be a step forward if we did away with the pretence that public policy cannot exercise preference among family forms (Fsadni 2012). Over the long arc of its history in the west, the family as a social institution has been able to achieve a balance between the interests of individuals and the society, the desires of adults and the needs of children, between church and state, between contract and the bonds of a covenant. Today, we need to recapture that balance more than ever. According to Selling (2005), one way the church can contribute to the welfare of all the parties is precisely by helping find that right balance between the institutional side of marriage and the personal bond. Selling (2005) argues that by replacing the contract model by the covenantal model, the second Vatican Council sought to introduce a new approach to marriage. Consequently, Selling (2005), suggests that such approach should give more leeway to pastors in addressing contemporary issues in marriage and could be a further inspiration in developing a matrimonial jurisprudence....
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