Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Institutions and Relationships Policy in Western Liberal Democracies

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Version 1 2021-11-15, 10:16
posted on 2023-09-26, 01:34 authored by Nimmo, Christopher David

This thesis explores the influence of institutions in the development of policies dealing with adult intimate relationships in New Zealand, Australia, and the United States between 1990 and 2014. Over this period, the social importance and acceptance of non-“traditional” relationships has increased in New Zealand, Australia, and the United States. However, despite all three countries working from what Gauthier describes as a “non-interventionist” approach to family policy, relationships policies have developed in markedly different ways in each. I argue that divergent translations of similar social trends are the result of differences between the structures of decision-making and institutions of interest representation in each country, and of policy legacies that make particular policy avenues more readily accessible. Electoral systems, parliamentary procedures and party structures govern which interests are able to exercise power within legislatures, while other institutions such as courts, bureaucracies, and law commissions contribute to the policy-making process in different ways. Countries are less likely to move in a non-interventionist or pro-egalitarian relationships policy direction where candidate selection procedures allow religious conservatives to play a significant role in both major parties, but religious conservatives have had little success in reversing non-interventionist policy changes after the fact. Instead, pro-traditionalist policy changes are typically minor regulatory changes or expenditures that are vulnerable to budget pressures. Legal interests expressed through law commissions or justice bureaucracies have a key role in enabling transitions to non-interventionist policies, particularly in the treatment of non-marital relationships, although the treatment of these relationships in core government activities such as taxation and welfare may also contribute to decisions in this area.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License


Degree Discipline

Social Policy

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Arts

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Social and Cultural Studies


Grey, Sandra