The number of cohabiting couples breaking up has overtaken separation between married couples for the first time, the Marriage Foundation has claimed.
The social campaigners analysed the marriage data released by the Office for National Statistics last month, comparing this to previously gathered data. According to the new ONS figures, parents living together without getting married make up just under 21 per ent of all couples in the UK. Married couples with children, meanwhile, account for 79 per cent.
Existing data suggests that a little over one per cent of married couples with chldren and more than five per cent of cohabiting ones will break up in any given year. On this basis, the Foundation estimates that around 66,500 umarried parents will have gone their separte ways in 2016, compared to approximately 62,500 married parents.
Data suggests that there are now around 1.3 million cohabiting couples, a substantial increase from the 950,000 who were living together 11 years ago. The total number of married couples with children has remained at at relatively steady 4.8 million .
Marriage Foundation research director Harry Benson said the figures reflected the inherently unstable nature of of cohabitation.
“The great paradox of UK family statistics is that family breakdown has been going up for years while divorce has been going down for years. The reason – as repeatedly shown by Marriage Foundation research – is the trend away from relatively stable marriage and toward relatively unstable cohabitation.”
“Our new finding reveals that we have crossed a watershed. Cohabiting parents, despite being only one fifth of couples, now account for the majority of family breakdown.”
Read the report here.