Family stability improves as divorce rates fall

Traditionally, January has seen a spike in the number of couples deciding to end their marriage, following a stressful festive period. However, new research released today suggest that this month could be quieter for divorce lawyers than expected. While teenage years may have a reputation for being difficult and volatile, an increasing number of parents are staying married long enough to weather these storms together.

New analysis by the Marriage Foundation of two large national surveys provide the first hard evidence that falling divorce rates are translating into falling rates of family breakdown for teens. Data from the Family Resources Survey and Understanding Society both show that the proportion of 13 to 15 year olds not living with both natural parents has fallen to 36 per cent in 2016-8.

Parallel data from the Office of National Statistics shows that the divorce rates for couples who have been married for 15 years has fallen from 31 per cent in 2005 to 28 per cent in 2017, and are predicted to fall to 23 per cent within the next decade. As 90 per cent of intact parents with teens are married, these statistics show a clear improvement in family stability.

The UK has the highest level of family instability in the developed world. This has serious consequences for children’s outcomes – Marriage Foundation research has shown that family breakdown is the single biggest predictor of teenage mental health problems. Family breakdown costs the taxpayer £51 billion a year, much of which is on benefits to support lone parent families.

Today’s findings suggest a happier, more settled new year ahead for many of Britain’s teens.

Key findings:

Data from the Family Resources Survey shows that the proportion of teens aged 13 to 15 not living with both natural parents has fallen from 40 per cent in 2004/5 to 36 per cent in 2016/17.
Equivalent data from Understanding Society shows that the proportion has fallen from 44 per cent in 2009/10 to 36 per cent in 2015/16.
Although the figures vary, both show a consistent downward trend to the same level of marriage breakdown.
Data from the Office of National Statistics show that cumulative divorce rates among couples completing 15 years of marriage have fallen from 31 per cent in 2005 to 28 per cent in 2017, and are set to fall further to 23 per cent within the next decade.

Downloads

Here you can download the Research Briefing Paper as a PDF and the Press Release where it is available.

Media Links

Family breakdown costs £50bn a year

When couples split up, families move from one to two households. Poverty is a common outcome that affects children. Six out of ten lone parents are supported by the state compared to one out of ten couple parents. That’s where most of the £50bn is spent.

UK Among highest family breakdown in Europe

Five years ago, the UK had the highest rate of family breakdown in Europe. We’re not doing as badly today, but only because of big falls in divorce rates. Alas there’s no sign of a similar improvement among cohabitees

Lower Divorce Rates – Higher Lone Parents

Divorce rates have plummeted over the past 3 decades, but the number of lone parents has doubled in the same period. Why?… Because unmarried parents make up only one in five cohabiting parents but are responsible for one half of all family breakdown.

Stability is found in Marriage

Whereas stability is the norm if parents are married (75% stay together), it is the exception if they are not (30% stay together). As a result, among parents of teens who are still together as a couple, nine out of ten are married

Single Most Important Factor

The single most important factor in a child’s healthy development is the stable relationship of the parents. Our groundbreaking research shows that family breakdown is the #1 predictor of teenage mental health problems.

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