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Unmarried parents set to account for half of all family breakdowns, campaign group claims

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.”

He added:

“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.”

He continued:

“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.”

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  1. Andrew says:

    Or could it be that the couples who decline to commit are those who are more likely to break up?

  2. annoymous says:

    Here we go again, lets drum up support for co habitaion laws becausce marriage rates are falling, or try to advertise how wonderful being married in todays world is.

    Address the issues of why people (mostly men) do not want to marry in a legal system that is heavily stacked in the females favour. This is becoming a joke now and laws need to be changed so the marriage can be the foundation of our society once again

  3. JamesB says:

    I agree with annonymous.

  4. Andrew says:

    Indeed. People who want to be committed to each other will commit to each other, and people who do not commit to each other do not want to be committed to each other – and it’s not for the law to second-guess them. It’s not rocket science.

  5. Luke says:

    “Divorce rates have actually been falling since 2004.”

    One would naturally expect divorce rates to fall for 2 reasons:
    (1) The marriage rate has gone off a cliff so there are fewer marriages that can go wrong.
    (2) The couples left who do still marry despite the pitfalls becoming slowly more obvious to the general public are inevitably going to be the most committed to marriage.

    The reason people break up more often when they are cohabiting is the same reason existing cohabiting couples are on average happier than married couples – marriage is so difficult to legally untangle and the uncertainties of who gets what at the whim of a Judge are so great that many married couples are prepared to stay in a state of relative unhappiness and ‘rub along’ rather than face divorce. This is particularly true of men who often face financial ruin on divorce.
    I have been in a number of jobs where there is a male co-worker who is in a miserable marriage but stays around because he cannot afford to leave.

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