‘Children suffering as marriage take-up declines’

The number of couples getting married is falling according to a new study, leading to warnings over the impact on children.

The analysis conducted by the Marriage Foundation showed that children benefit from being brought up by married parents, irrespective of parental income and education.

Sir Paul Coleridge, the former High Court judge who heads up the organisation, spoke about the findings on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

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Marriage take-up

In the 1970s, the number of people getting married in both high-income and low-income households was around 90 per cent.

The study reveals that nowadays in households with an income over £43,000, 87 per cent of mothers with children under five are married. This compares to only 24 per cent of mothers in houses with an income under £14,000.

For middle earners with an income between £21,000 and £30,000, only 59 per cent were married in 2012, compared to 84 per cent in 1994.

Clear link

Sir Paul Coleridge warned that the decline of marriage “matters a lot” because “marriage and family stability go hand in hand”.

He argued that where people “are making decisions which lead to more risky relationships they suffer and, much more importantly, their children suffer”.

He rejected suggestions that positive outcomes for children resulted from their parents’ level of income or education, saying that there was a “clear link” between people who choose to stay together “come what may” and their childrens’ well-being.

Huge impact

He said: “If you do not marry it is vanishingly unlikely that you will be with your children, if you have children, as a couple by the time they are 15.”

If you don’t commit to each other in marriage, “when you hit difficult times you are much, much more likely to break up and that causes a huge impact on children”.

Family breakdown

Harry Benson, Research Director at the Marriage Foundation said: “The drop in marriage rates among the poor is causing a huge rise in family break-up for the most disadvantaged.”

“Cohabiting couples make up only 19 per cent of parents but account for half of all family breakdown.”