Contrary to claims in the media, lockdown has been good news for most married parents.
Speculation about a coming ‘divorce boom’ is misplaced.
We analysed data from 2,559 parents who completed the June questionnaire for UK Household Longitudinal Survey Coronavirus Study (University of Essex 2020).
Twice as many marriages improved during lockdown compared to those that worsened. Whereas 20% of married parents said their relationship got better, 9% said theirs got worse.
Although there are clear signs that lockdown caused friction in some marriages, two thirds fewer parents than normal have been considering divorce.
Compared to pre-covid levels in 2017-19, slightly more married fathers than normal said they were fairly or extremely unhappy, getting on each other’s nerves or quarrelling often, or often regretting getting married. However just 0.7% of married fathers were considering divorce, two thirds down on pre-covid levels. More married mothers than normal also reported being unhappy, but fewer said they were quarrelling. Two thirds fewer were considering divorce.
Cohabiting mothers struggled most during lockdown, with 22% saying their relationship had got worse compared to 7% of married mothers, 6% of cohabiting and 11% of married fathers. They were also more likely than married parents to be unhappy, get on nerves or quarrel often.
Although stress levels in parental relationships have risen, lockdown appears to have affirmed the commitment of married parents and exposed the insecurity faced by cohabiting mothers.