The myth of long-term stable relationships outside of marriage

• 45 per cent of young teenagers (aged 13-15 years old) are not living with both parents

• Half of all family breakdown takes place during the first two years

• Amongst parents who remain intact, 93 per cent are married

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 who do remain intact, 93 per cent are married.

In sharp contrast, of the 47 per cent of children born to unmarried parents today, the report predicts that just 11 per cent will reach the age of 16 with unmarried parents still together. The remainder will either marry or split up. Those who remain unmarried and intact are a small minority.

The report highlights concerns that the Government has ignored the strong correlation between marital status and family breakdown and focused instead on “long term stable relationships” when developing family policy papers.

The study is based on the results of a large longitudinal survey of 40,000 households between 2010 and 2011.

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.

‘Despite the evidence behind the stability of marriage, the Government seems fixed on airbrushing marriage from family policy papers,’ Harry Benson added.

‘Whilst government policy disregards the crucial role marriage plays in helping couples stay together, the epidemic of family breakdown will roll on. Almost all couples who remain intact whilst bringing up their children are married. The most family-friendly Government of all time – as promised in 2010 – needs to recognise this hard evidence and do something about it. ’

Harry Benson appeared on Newsnight on Wednesday in a discussion of the Transferable Tax Allowance. Also part of the debate was Claire Paye, spokesperson for Mothers at Home Matter. The pressure group has welcomed the amendment to the Finance Bill, tabled by Tim Loughton, to introduce a Transferable Tax Allowance to couples with children under 6 years old.


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

Media Links

The Telegraph, 22nd May 2013
by John Bingham, Social Affairs editor: “Almost no couples with children who stay unmarried stay together, study claims”

Daily Mail, 22nd May 2013
by Steve Doughty: “Nine in 10 children born to cohabiting couples this year will ‘see parents split by the time they are 16′”

Family Law Week, 23rd May 2013
“Cohabitation fails to offer stable home for children, claims Marriage Foundation report”

Marilyn Stowe Blog, 23rd May 2013
“Campaign group spotlights the ‘myth’ of stable relationships outside marriage”

Gulf News, 23rd May 2013
“Study on babies with co-habiting parents”

The Times, 24th May 2013
by Frances Gibb, Legal editor: “Most children from broken homes had unwed parents”

The Information Daily, 24th May 2013
“‘Devastating’ family breakdown epidemic needs government action”

South African Independent Online, 3rd June 2013
“Married parents more stable than unmarried”

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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