Over Half UK Family Breakdowns Involve Cohabiting Couples


New official figures for the UK show that despite unmarried couples with children making up just one in five of all parents, they now account for more than 50 per cent of family break ups which involve children. While there are more than 4.8 million UK families where the parents are married, and just 1.26 million where they are not, more than half of splits in 2016 were cohabiting couples. Ten years ago, families where the parents cohabited made up 45 per cent of break ups.


Harry Benson, of the Marriage Foundation, who analysed the data, said the increase was due to a rise in the total number of families where the parents are unmarried. In 2006 there were just 954,000 cohabiting couples, compared to 1.26 million in 2016.


Sir Paul Coleridge, a former High Court judge and founder and chairman of the Marriage Foundation, said: “Whenever family breakdown statistics are discussed people assume it means married couples divorcing, but that is not the real mischief.


“The real mischief is that separating cohabiting as opposed to divorcing couples are four times more likely to split up.  This is the driver of the national tragedy of mass family breakdown.”


Previous research found that unmarried couples were four times more likely to split up than married couples. 5.3 per cent of unmarried couples split during the course of any one year, compared to 1.3 per cent of married couples.


The UK has one of the highest levels of family breakdown in Europe. Research released earlier this year by the Social Trends Institute found that the UK is the only country in Europe where less than 75 per cent of children live with both natural parents. Levels are also high in the US, where almost one in three children live with a single parent.


Mr Benson said that the unpopularity of marriage was due to an preoccupation with “individual autonomy” in the UK and US. He said it was a “public health issue” because children in cohabiting relationships were more likely to have problems with health and education.

The Daily Telegraph. April 1.

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