In the first five years of Marriage Foundation we have focused on establishing the reality of family stability and instability: what actually happens to couples and their children, who stays together and who splits up. This is transforming the debate about marriage which, previously, had been obscured by myths and misconceptions.
This briefing note draws together our most significant findings to date.
|1.||If current trends remain as they are, any child born today in the UK has only a 50/50 chance of being with both their birth parents by the age of 15.||Family breakdown is a serious cause for concern|
|2.||Cohabiting parents make up 19 per cent of all couples with dependent children, but account for half of all family breakdown.|
|3.||Nearly all parents (93 per cent) who stay together until their children reach 15 are married.||Marriages offer a much better chance of staying together than cohabiting|
|4.||Parents who are married before they have a child are far more likely to stay together.|
|5.||Marriage boosts self-esteem for teenage boys and girls. Childhood self-esteem predicts future life chances. Teenagers' self-esteem is influenced by whether or not their parents are married.||Children suffer greatly from family breakdown|
|6.||Children are now more likely to have a smartphone than a father at home. Children need father figures, especially boys.|
|7.||Only 9 per cent of couples who break up have a high conflict relationship – ie, arguing a lot, a year prior to splitting. 60 per cent of couples are both happy and not quarrelling a year prior to splitting.||Mend it don’t end it!’ Relationships are salvageable|
|8.||Almost a third (27 per cent) of couples cite ‘drifting apart’ as the reason they divorced.|
|9.||Only half of today’s teenagers will marry even though almost all aspire to marriage.||The ‘Marriage Gap’ is dividing the country|
|10.||There’s a growing Marriage Gap: 87 per cent of high earners (over £43,000) marry; only 24 per cent of low earners (under £16,000) marry. The rich get married (and stay together); the poor don’t.|
See below for our constantly updated published research
Marriage Foundation's data reveals that cabinet members show near universal support for marriage, with 89% of 27 ministers married and only one minister who has never married. Cabinet members are thus exposed to well above average levels of family stability. It is long overdue that private backing for marriage turns into public policy.
This new analysis of Census 2011 data shows that the ‘marriage gap’ exists in every one of 174 county councils in England & Wales but the type of neighbourhood you live in also has a direct impact on whether you chose to marry.
According to data from Office for National Statistics, family breakdown has risen by 8% in the last decade due to the increase in cohabitation. Cohabiting parents now account for the majority of family breakdown in the UK.
Our new survey of 291 mothers reveals that what mums want most from their husband or partner – happy and unhappy alike – is kindness, friendship, and somebody interested in them and their children, much more than they need a traditional provider or protector.
Our analysis of data from 10,000 parents with new born children in the Millennium Cohort Study shows that majority of couples who are unhappy when their first child is born are happy ten years later if they stay together.
Over 1 million children will spend Christmas in a household that is unhappy. How stressful this is for the children depends on whether it is accompanied by high levels of parental conflict, which is the case for some 194,000 children.
Analysis of the latest ONS divorce statistics for England and Wales show the divorce rate has fallen back to pre-1975 levels.
Muslim mothers favour marriage more than any other religious group and report highest levels of relationship happiness among all groups.
Married couples – but NOT cohabiting couples – who went out monthly were significantly less likely to split up.
Marriage gap between rich and poor parents exists throughout Europe contrasting marriage rates between top and bottom income quintiles.
Childhood self-esteem predicts future life chances. Our study finds that teenagers' self-esteem is influenced by whether or not their parents are married.
Marriage Foundation's research finds that couples who have been married fifty years are over 200 times more likely to become centenarians than get a divorce.
Marriage Foundation looked at 488 A-list couples who married between 2001 and 2010 and found that the celebrity divorce rate over the first fourteen years of marriage is 50%, double the current UK divorce rate over the same period.
Divorces granted to wives have fallen. Newlywed husbands within the last decade have become more intentional about their entry into marriage, leading to happier wives and lower divorce.
High conflict warring couples are a rarity among couples who split. The vast majority of family breakdown involves low conflict couples.
New analysis shows that the trend away from marriage was largely confined to low income groups prior to the 1990s but is now spreading to families on middle income.
According to the Office for National Statistics, 53% of births are to married parents. However this total figure conceals a dramatic variation in the prevalence of marriage – the Marriage Gap.
The trend away from marriage since 1980 has increased family breakdown in England & Wales by up to 44%.
In the first study of its kind in the UK, we find that the odds of staying together are greatest among couples who marry before having children. This finding is independent of mothers’ age and education.
Fifty years ago, only one in ten children missed out on Christmas with both parents. Many more would have had to put up with squabbling parents who remained together. Back then, almost all parents got married before having children. The flip side was that it was difficult to end a bad relationship.
Far fewer 20 year olds are predicted to marry than the previous generation; only 52 per cent of 20 year olds compared to 68 per cent of 40 year olds. Of the 48 per cent who will never marry, only 5 per cent will still be part of an intact couple by their child’s fifteenth birthday. In comparison, of the 52 per cent of 20 year old women predicted to marry to some stage and have children, 34 per cent will still be married by their child’s mid-teens.
Latest data shows the UK has the highest rate of family breakdown in Western Europe. Figures calculated by Eurostat, the EU’s primary statistics body, and uncovered by The Marriage Foundation show that, for the first time, the UK has the highest proportion of children living in lone parent households of all the countries in Western Europe.
Research from The Marriage Foundation reveals that 47 per cent of women and 48 per cent of men aged twenty will never marry. The report reveals a generational shift away from marriage as couples increasingly cohabit without ever taking the decision to commit. The baby-boomer generation has maintained a healthy level of marriage, with 87 per cent of men and 92 per cent of women having married at some stage, but subsequent generations are facing a sharp decline in marriage rates. Half of forty year olds today are already married, but they are not expected to reach the levels of set by their parents. According to current trends, only 61 per cent of men and 68 per cent of women aged 40 today will ever marry. That is a decline of 26 per cent for men and 24 per cent for women.
ONS divorce data published today appears to show that divorce rates have fluctuated up and down over the past twenty years. However this “year of divorce” method of calculating divorce rates makes analysis of trends all but impossible to assess because it mixes marriages of different durations. In its report, Early marriages stronger for 8th year running, the Marriage Foundation instead picks out the couples who married in any particular year and tracks the rate at which they divorce over time. This “year of marriage” method shows that divorce rates in the first five years of marriage have been falling, more or less continuously, for sixteen years. In the past eight years, the fall has been uninterrupted. Harry Benson of the Marriage Foundation, who compiled the report, strongly welcomed the findings: “This is a real blow for those who try to claim that divorce rates are forever rising and that marriage is becoming an obsolete institution. What we’re seeing in fact is the strengthening of marriage over time. These findings are particularly positive because, as previous Marriage Foundation research has shown, most of the rise in divorce since the 1960s has taken place in the early years of marriage."
The Department of Work and Pensions is leading a cross government Family Stability Review which will assess evidence on measures to support family stability and make recommendations on future policy. Among the many points that Harry Benson makes in his submission is the following response about how to understand recent trends in family stability, what families look like today and how has this changed over time.
Despite accounting for only one in five parents, unmarried couples are set to overtake married couples as the main source of family breakdown by the end of 2013. Cohabiting couples make up only around 19 per cent of parents, according to Office for National Statistics (ONS) data. However in 2010, they accounted for 48 per cent of family breakdown cases. The wealth of data provided by the Understanding Society survey published this month has enabled the annual rate of family breakdown to be quantified for the first time. While an average of 5.3 per cent of cohabiting couples with dependent children under sixteen years old split up each year since 2009, only 1.3 per cent of equivalent married couples break up. Based on current trends, the percentage of family breakdowns from unmarried households is set rise to 50 per cent by the end of 2013, according to a report by the Marriage Foundation think tank. It will be the first time in British history that more unmarried couples have split up than those who have tied the knot. Harry Benson of the Marriage Foundation, who wrote the report 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. November 2013.
Latest figures from the ONS reveal babies born in 2012 will suffer higher rates of family breakdown than any previous generation. 354,000 of the 729,674 children born last year will experience the breakdown of their parents’ relationship by the time they are 13-15 years old, according to projections made based on current trends by the Marriage Foundation think tank. Harry Benson, of the Marriage Foundation, found that of the 51 per cent of children who will still be living with their parents at their fifteenth birthday, only 5 per cent will have unmarried parents. Commenting on the new figures, Harry Benson said: “Almost all intact parents, 89 per cent, will be married. Of the teenagers not living with both parents, just 32 per cent of cases involved divorce. “We continually hear about divorce rates shooting up and causing the exponential rise in family breakdown, but this is demonstrably not the case. “The percentage of marriages ending in divorce has actually fallen since 2005 to 42 per cent. For all marriages lasting over ten years, the divorce rate has barely changed since the 1960s. “It is the declining rates of marriage which provide the only conceivable explanation of the doubling of family breakdown since the 1980s. October 2013.
Around a quarter of a million of couples are claiming lone parent benefits, while continuing to reap the benefits of a two-parent household. ONS figures show that there are currently 1.986 million lone-parent families in England and Wales. However, the number of lone-parent tax credit beneficiaries total 2.226 million, according to HM Revenue and Customs data. This leaves at least 240,000 couples with children are pretending to live apart. As not all lone parents make use of their legitimate claim to tax credits, the number of illegitimate claimants is likely to be even higher.Harry Benson of the Marriage Foundation, who wrote the report said: “It is indefensible that parents who are in committed, stable relationships should face such significant penalties for staying together, to the extent that some pretend to be separated, in order to avoid penalisation. These couples who have not made the decision to commit to each other will be strongly dissuaded from doing so by the tax system. There is statistical evidence of this link between the early years of parenting and difficulty in staying together – half of all reported family breakdown occurs before a child’s third birthday. It is irresponsible for the Government to continue this disincentive to make relationships work. They should be striving to encourage solid relationships, which are key to avoiding expensive social problems further down the line." September 2013.
New report from the Marriage Foundation explodes the myth about a link between divorce and recession. Relationship charities have previously claimed that more married couples break up during an economic downturn because of the strain of financial anxiety putting pressure on relationships. Arguing the exact opposite, lawyers have suggested recessions keep couples together, as they cannot afford to go through expensive divorce procedures and the cost of buying a second house. However research, carried out by Harry Benson of The Marriage Foundation, shows that neither side can claim to have reached a valid conclusion because the link simply does not exist. “For every year since the 1970s – and across every duration of marriage, from ‘newlyweds’ through to ‘silver surfers’ – divorce rates have almost always stayed within plus or minus 10 percent of the previous year’s figure. There is no evidence whatsoever to link either economic growth or stock market performance with changes in divorce rates.” June 2013.
Compelling new evidence that couples who don’t marry rarely offer a secure and stable home for their children has been produced in a major new piece of research. 45 per cent of young teenagers, aged 13-15, are no longer living with both their parents, a report carried out by the Marriage Foundation has found. Amongst parents of young teenagers whose relationships do remain intact, 93 per cent are married. Harry Benson of the Marriage Foundation said, “The report provides solid evidence that married parents are more stable than unmarried parents. The contrast between married and unmarried parents who remain intact by the time their children reach their teenage years demonstrates that marital status plays a crucial role in family breakdown. With family breakdown costing an estimated £46 billion a year – that’s to say, more than the entire defence budget – in addition to the immeasurable social damage, it is clearly in the interest of government and the taxpayer to work to counter this devastating trend." May 2013
"Wisdom really does come with age: second marriages are less likely to end in divorce than first marriages, new research reveals. The Marriage Foundation think-tank has produced a report revealing that second marriages are more stable than first marriages, challenging the widely held belief that couples who remarry are doomed to repeat the mistakes from their first marriage. Almost half – 45 per cent – of all couples who marry for the first time in 2013 will divorce during their lifetime. However, divorced couples who marry for the second time have only a 31% chance of their marriage ending in divorce, according to Harry Benson, Communications Director at The Marriage Foundation and author of the report." April 2013
"Divorce rate unchanged since the 1960s after ten years of marriage, says new research. A new report from the Marriage Foundation think-tank, What is the divorce rate?, has shattered the common assumption that the divorce rate for all couples is higher than it was in the 1960s. Looking at the rate of divorce over the last four decades, Harry Benson, Communications Director at The Marriage Foundation, found that the divorce rate for couples after they have been married for ten years or more was the same as it was in the 1970s, 80s, 90s and 2000s. A couple who married in 2001 have the same chance of getting divorced after ten or more years of marriage as a couple who married in 1971, a consistency Mr Benson describes as 'remarkable'”. February 2013
"A new report from The Marriage Foundation finds that after 10 years of marriage the divorce rate for celebrities is 40 per cent. For the rest of the country, the figure is just 20 per cent over the same amount of time. The report, written by relationships expert Harry Benson and family law Barrister Rehna Azim, argues that the celebrity culture absorbed from magazines like Hello! give us unrealistic, fairy-tale expectations about marriage and relationships, when in fact, '…the glamour of celebrity weddings is a poor indicator of future marital success.' The Marriage Foundation examined 572 well-known celebrity couples who have tied the knot since the year 2000. The report highlights the weddings of celebrities such as Britney Spears, whose marriage to Jason Alexander lasted just 55 hours. It concludes that people should have more accurate expectations of how much hard work it takes to keep a marriage together." November 2012
"New research from The Marriage Foundatio shows that the divorce rate for wife-granted divorces has more than halved since 1993. The reason? Less pressure from family and society to get married makes men who decide to tie the knot more dedicated to their relationship. The report, written by Harry Benson, Communications director at the Marriage Foundation, is the first ever analysis of divorce rates both by gender – whether the divorce is granted to the husband or to the wife – and years of marriage. Amongst couples in their first decade of marriage, husband granted divorce rates increased by 1 per cent between 1993 and 2010 while wife-granted divorce rates have fallen by 27 per cent. When this analysis is applied to just the first three years of marriage the drop in divorces granted to women is a startling 51 per cent. Sir Paul Coleridge, the high court judge who launched the Marriage Foundation this year, said: 'This dramatic fall in divorce rates is good news and should give people confidence in the strengths and benefits of this wonderful institution. It is the instability of cohabitation that is our greatest concern.'”