Cohabiting parents will soon account for half of all breakdowns in the UK, according to new figures from the Marriage Foundation.
Only around 19 per cent of parents are unmarried but they currently account for 48 per cent of all family breakdowns, the campaign group claims.
Using recently published data from the Understanding Society survey, the Foundation estimates that this figure will reach 50 per cent by the end of 2013.
The percentage of cohabiting couples with dependent children under the age of 16 who break up each year is already several times than married couples – 5.3 per cent versus 1.3 per cent.
Marriage Foundation Communications Director Harry Benson said:
“This marks a significant tipping point for society today. We hear so often that rising rates of divorce is the cause of growing family instability, but these statistics prove how far that is from being the case. Divorce rates have actually been falling since 2004.”
“It is frequently said that low income and poor education are the main reasons behind family breakdown, rather than whether or not the parents are married. But if anything, the average income and level in education has improved since the 1980s, while family breakdown has doubled.”
“In short, we have an epidemic of family breakdown in this country because so few people realise how badly the odds of success are stacked against unmarried cohabitees. If you’re living together as unmarried parents, you’re four times more likely to split up than married parents. And that’s why this research finds that one fifth of couples who cohabit account for one half of all family breakdown.”