Marriage is “associated with more family stability for children across the globe”, and cohabitation “typically associated with more instability”, a new study has found.
The report by the Social Trends Institute also stated that there is a “growing consensus” that children are more likely to thrive in a stable family than in an unstable one.
Sir Paul Coleridge, chairman of the Marriage Foundation, called the report a “wake-up call” for the UK and called for the Government to act.
The report, which used data from over 100 countries, showed the UK to be among the worst countries in the world for family breakdown.
More than three in five children born to unmarried parents were found to experience family breakdown before turning twelve.
Children born to cohabiting couples were also 94 per cent more likely to see their parents break up than children born to married couples.
Sir Paul urged the Government to act, saying: “How many more surveys and reports do we need before government puts this problem at the very top of the social justice agenda?”
Having spent 40 years in family courts as a barrister and then a judge, he said that “in virtually every case”, a child’s deepest longing is to see their parents and family reunited, but that they are “sadly and invariably ignored”.
He added that children are the victims, as child mental health problems are “hugely exacerbated” by family instability.
Sir Paul also said that because marriage is the most stable relationship, it is the best arrangement for living with children.
“Across the globe the children of married couples fare best”, he said, adding that “stability in a child’s life is the number one key factor”.
He urged all couples with children to “take whatever steps necessary” to guarantee the survival of the relationship for the sake of the child.
The Relationship Foundation reported that family breakdown in the UK cost the taxpayer almost £48 billion, last year.
This covered health and social care, housing, civil and criminal justice, educational needs, and lone parent benefits.