Half of all parents likely to split up before their children reach 16

8 December 2010

Research based partly on the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) projects a rise in family breakdowns and attributes this more to  the dissolution of cohabiting relationships than to marriages ending in divorce.

The research was carried out jointly by the Centre for Social Justice think tank and the Bristol Community Family Trust, using data from MCS, the British Household Panel Study, the Families and Children Study and the National Census.

The report states that while marriage accounts for 54% of births, the failure of marriages – i.e. divorce – accounts for only 20% of break-ups, whereas unmarried families account for 80% of the break-ups.  The report predicts that 48% of all children born today will not still be living with both natural parents on their 16th birthday, based on current trends, in contrast to the figure of 40% of teenagers ten years ago.

Benson, H (2010): Family Breakdown in the UK: It’s NOT about divorce.  Bristol Community Family Trust, December 2010.

Professor Heather Joshi comments: The Millennium Cohort confirms evidence from other sources that married partnerships are more stable than those of parents who do not get married. This paper does not however provide an analysis of the different circumstances affecting whether or not parents marry. This  would help understanding of the policy implications of the diffent pathways through lone parenthood for British children that are charted in this short report.

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