The trend away from traditional marriage is driving the increase in family breakdown. The fastest growing family type in the UK is the cohabiting family which has grown by 30% since 2004 but is the least stable.
In Australia the rates of living together without marrying appears to have increased by one to three percentage points across each Census year since 1971, reaching 16% in 2011.
Every year in the UK, 215,000 children will see their parents split up. Of the 47% of children born today outside of marriage, only 11% will reach 16 with their families intact. 83% of babies live with both parents, of whom 65% are married. By the time children are 15 only 53% live with both parents, of whom 93% are married.
In Australia there are >46 thousand divorces, with almost 22 thousand involving children under 18 years of age (or 47% of all divorces), with an average of 1.8 child per divorce. In 2013, almost 42 thousand children experienced the divorce of their parents.
The Marriage Foundations Harry Benson in “The myth of long-term stable relationships outside marriage”, claims the key factor is marital status at birth: couples who are married are far more likely to stay together than those who marry later or remain unmarried.
If marriage is an intentional, public act of commitment, then cohabiting couples who drift into cohabitation and drift into shared financial responsibilities are much more likely to separate. The failure to marry is often the decision of only one partner, and their unwillingness fully to commit destabilises the relationship from the outset (Rhoades, Stanley, and Markman: 2006).
- Ashcroft, J. (2015) Counting the Cost of Family Failure, 2015 Update. Relationships Foundation, Cambridge.
- Benson, H 2013: The myth of “long-term stable relationships outside marriage”, The Marriage Foundation, May, extrapolated from Census and ONS data.
- Rhoades, G. K., Stanley, S. M., Markman, H. J. 2006: Pre-engagement cohabitation and gender asymmetry in marital commitment. Journal of Family Psychology, 20(4), 553-560
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