A landmark study on family life has revealed a huge increase in family breakdown and highlighted the vital role of marriage.
According to the study, more than one in three children underwent domestic upheaval, such as parental break-up, by the age of eleven.
In addition, more than one in five children whose parents split up, experienced emotional or behavioural problems.
The latest research, from the Centre for Longitudinal Studies, followed the lives of 13,000 children born in the year 2000.
It showed that by age eleven only half of the children’s parents were still married, compared to 60 per cent when they were toddlers.
A similar study from 1969 found that around 90 per cent of children aged eleven still had married parents.
Twice the rate of children whose parents split up experienced behavioural and emotional problems compared to those whose parents remained together.
The study also demonstrated a link between marriage and family stability, showing that cohabiting parents are more than twice as likely to separate as those who are married.
Harry Benson, of the Marriage Foundation commented: “Politicians can no longer safely ignore what these big national studies are telling us – that children whose parents don’t stay together face much higher risks to their well-being.
“It is also clear that very few parents who do not get married stay together.”
Benson continued: “Politicians are incredibly glib in the way they ignore marriage but the message should be absolutely clear – if we are not encouraging parents to get married we are increasing those risks.”
Last month a survey commissioned by family lawyers revealed some of the devastating effects of divorce on children.
According to the findings by Resolution, almost two thirds of 14 to 16 year-olds whose parents divorced said that their education was negatively affected.
One in seven said that the stress involved with their parents’ split caused them to turn to drugs or alcohol. It also found that a fifth of children never saw one or more of their grandparents again.