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New-born babies to suffer highest rates of family breakdown since records began

Date: October 21, 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.

The publication of Marriage Foundation projections follows the release of an Ofsted report, in which Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Service and Skills, Sir Michael Wilshaw, made an unambiguous link between family fragmentation and social breakdown.

Sir Michael pointed to “hollowed out and fragmented families” where parents suffer a “poverty of accountability”. He echoed findings from the Centre for Social Justice, which revealed that as many as one million children are growing up without a father.

Sir Michael said that this “alienation” of children from their fathers was at the heart of wider problems. Centre for Social Justice research has proven the link between family breakdown and the likelihood of children being involved in truancy, juvenile delinquency and alcohol or drug abuse.

Harry Benson of the Marriage Foundation added: “We know about the damage caused by family breakdown, and yet the Government needs to do a lot more to address the problem.

“They have introduced a £200 a year Transferable Tax Allowance, which is a positive step, allowing married couples to keep a little bit more of their earnings. But no-one could claim this would incentivise couples to marry, nor would it overcome a sizeable ‘couple penalty’. We need to be talking about thousands not hundreds to make a difference.

“Thinking of all those children born in 2012, it’s appalling to think how many will go through their family breaking up. Half of the children who will at some point go through family breakdown, will have already seen their parents split up by the time they are two years old.

“If marriage is statistically the most stable environment for a child to grow up in, shouldn’t the Government do everything it can to support couples who have made the big decision to commit?”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

For media inquiries please contact Beatrice Timpson on 07803 726 977 or beatrice@mippr.co.uk. Harry Benson is available to be interviewed on 07515 699187.

The Marriage Foundation was founded by Sir Paul Coleridge, a High Court Judge, moved by his personal experience in 40 years as a barrister and judge specialising in family law. The Foundation seeks to improve public understanding of marriage reduce the numbers of people drawn into the family justice system – some 500,000 children and adults each year.