As many as 1.8 million additional children have been born into families affected by family breakdown over the 35 years, the Marriage Foundation has claimed.
The proportion of children born to married parents has dropped by 35 per cent since 1980, the campaign group declares in a newly published report – from 88 per cent in 1980 to just 53 per cent today. The overall divorce and separation rate in England and Wales – termed the ‘family breakdown’ rate – has increased by 44 per cent over the same period, it reports. Family breakdown has increased nearly every year and the number of lone parents has doubled during that time.
The report contrasts “relatively stable” married couples with “relatively unstable” unmarried ones, claiming that the 1.8 million youngsters would have been born into the former if marriage rates had remained at 1980 levels.
Even if marriage had remained at 1990 levels, around half a million children currently living in broken families would not have been the Foundation believes.
Research director Harry Benson writes:
“Changes to the main socio-economic factors known to influence family stability suggest that family breakdown should have decreased since 1980 – due to rising age, education and income of mothers.”
Consequently the steady rise of cohabitation is the “most plausible” explanation for the increasing rates of family breakdown, he believes.
“As the trend away from marriage continues, more and more children are born into families where the parents’ commitment to one another is unclear or ambiguous. By side-stepping the big decision to commit in public to each other, far too many parents lack the stability required to weather the various storms that life and child-raising in particular throws up.”
Read The cost to Britain’s children of the trend away from marriage here.