Think Tanks


7 Dec 2010 08:56:11

Instability of cohabitation is driving epidemic of family breakdown

Tim Montgomerie

BARRIE_-FATHERLESS A new report from the Centre for Social Justice and the Bristol Community Family Trust finds that children are more and more likely to see their parents split. 48% of children are likely to see their family break up before they are sixteen. Ten years ago the break up percentage was still a shocking 40%.

The CSJ/BFCT research, undertaken by Harry Benson, finds that it is the growth in the less stable relationship of cohabitation that is increasing the fragility of relationships. He writes:

“Of every £7 spent on family breakdown among young families (by the taxpayer), £1 is spent on divorce, £4 is spent on unmarried dual registered parents who separate and £2 is spent on sole registered parents. While marriage accounts for 54 per cent of births, the failure of marriages – ie divorce – accounts for only 20 per cent of break-ups and 14 per cent of the costs of family breakdown, among all families with children under five.”

Gavin Poole, Director of the CSJ, commented:

“These new figures underline the alarming and growing level of family breakdown in the UK. This imposes huge costs on society – both in terms of human unhappiness and financial burdens. It is well known that children from broken homes do less well at school and are more likely to turn to drugs, alcohol and crime. As for the financial penalties, the taxpayer is spending at least £20 billion a year trying to repair the damage done by family breakdown. New steps, such as tax breaks for marriage and far better relationship education, should be taken by Ministers and society at large to reverse these worrying social trends.”

Read more in today's Daily Mail and detail at the Centre for Social Justice website.

David Cameron is due to make a speech on family policy later this week. His ambition to support marriage has been constrained by the Liberal Democrats but Iain Duncan Smith recently set out the policy action he still hoped might be possible. Mr Cameron is expected to respond to last week's report from Frank Field which argued that good parenting is essential to a young child's development.

Meanwhile research from the USA does appear to show that the process of getting married does change men and the advantages of marriage are not just about pre-selection.