The Government has admitted that children brought up within a marriage setting are better off than children brought up in cohabiting or single parent families.
The evidence paper, Families in Britain, has been produced by the Cabinet Office and the Department for Children, Schools and Families.
The paper cites evidence showing that an astounding seven out of ten young criminals come from single parent homes even though these make up just a quarter of all families with children.
It also points out that children from lone parent families do less well at school, while two thirds of such families are poor and a third of lone mothers are depressed.
The paper states that “an absent parent can be associated with adverse material and emotional outcomes” and “by definition lone parent families are cut off from some family functions.”
Even though the evidence paper concludes that married couples are happier and tend to have higher incomes, while their children do better at school and have fewer emotional and behavioural problems, the paper still stops short of advancing policies to encourage marriage.
Instead of recognising the significance of marriage it focuses on the ‘quality’ of relationships and more money for the poor.
Tory families spokeswoman Maria Miller accused the Government of bias against married couples in its tax and benefits system and called for more state support.
The evidence paper has been released in light of findings from a recent “relationship summit” which Children’s Secretary Ed Balls attended to discuss help for families suffering break-up.
There is mounting evidence of the damage caused by family breakdown, with experts warning things could get worse.
In October the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) revealed that one in four children of cohabiting parents suffer family breakdown before they start school at the age of five.
This was compared with just one in ten children of married parents who experience a divorce or separation by the same stage.
In the same month the Office of National Statistics (ONS) released research showing that children from ‘reconstituted’ families containing step-parents and step-siblings were more likely to suffer emotional problems.
Patricia Morgan, academic and expert on the subject of family breakdown, said: “This does not come as a surprise, and things are going to get worse.
“Broken families and serial fathers produce homes full of conflict and chaos and they are terrible for children.”
In September researchers at the University of Essex expressed concern after finding that 44 per cent of babies are now born to unmarried parents.
Cohabitees are estimated to make up three-quarters of those parents.
But the researchers said that since these unmarried unions are far more likely to break up, an increasing number of children are living in single parent families.
In March Phil Whalley, a secondary school teacher, told delegates at the conference of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers that children coming to school angry and upset because of a chaotic home-life were often unable to learn.
He said: “The educational outcomes for all the children in so-called blended families are worse than the achievements of children brought up in traditional nuclear families.”
Mr Whalley continued: “The great sadness is that the consequences of an unstable family background are felt long into adult life.
“Those who under-achieve in their education are more likely to go on and live dysfunctional lives and be unable to support a stable family life for their own children”, he warned.