President Jacob Zuma's recent comments about why women should not be single have to be seen in context, the presidency said on Friday.
"The comments of the president are informed by the need to strengthen the family as an institution," it said in a statement.
"Government has released a green paper on families which states that the family is under threat and is unable to play its critical roles... due to failures in the political economy and the legacy of colonialism and apartheid."
It said the green paper attributed this to high levels of poverty and inequality, high unemployment, teenage pregnancies, crime, unwanted pregnancies, and HIV and Aids.
It argued that illiteracy, gender inequalities, absent fathers, domestic violence and high numbers of orphaned children were more apparent in South Africa because of weakening family structures.
"This means we need to define the South African families together, and the green paper provides that opportunity for meaningful dialogue," it said.
"The debate around what the president said... should go deeper and wider and hopefully ignite stakeholders to discuss the family green paper in the public domain, and help the process of defining, building and strengthening the South African family as an institution."
Zuma made the comments during an interview with Dali Tambo on his television show People of the South, which was aired on SABC3 on Sunday.
The interview was conducted at Zuma's house in Inkandla, KwaZulu-Natal.
Speaking about his daughter Duduzile's marriage to Lonwabo Sambudla, Zuma said he was happy for her.
"I was also happy because I wouldn't want to stay with daughters who are not getting married, because that in itself is a problem in society. I know that people today think being single is nice. It's actually not right. That's a distortion.
"You've got to have kids. Kids are important to a woman because they actually give an extra training to a woman, to be a mother."
In the interview, Zuma dined with two of his children, Edward and Duduzile, and her husband.
Duduzile told Tambo she once wanted to be a successful businesswoman, but her priorities had shifted now that she was married with children.
She was also vehemently opposed to allowing her husband to take a second wife.
"No way. Hell no. Not that I don't believe in it. My father practises it. I understand it. I accept it, but it's just not my choice," she said.