Single-parent families are on the rise but some press reports have exaggerated the situation, The Christian Institute says.
Figures published by the Office of National Statistics this week indicate that the worrying trend of children being born into unmarried or single-parent households continued in 2008.
They also indicate that many younger women are having children earlier than they are getting married.
However, yesterday’s headline in The Daily Telegraph, ‘The death of the traditional family’, is misleading. According to the ONS report, the majority of dependent children still live with their married parents.
Similarly, the report showed that most people think marriage is the best kind of relationship. Less than ten per cent believe it is just a piece of paper.
Colin Hart, the Director of The Christian Institute, said: “The latest figures from the ONS show what we all know – that while marriage is the best environment for raising children, we have alarming rates of divorce and out of wedlock births.
“However, it’s important that people don’t imagine that marriage is on the way out. Married couples still vastly outnumber cohabiting couples.
“The real news will be when politicians realise that if they are going to help children, they need to support marriage, rather than denying its relevance.”
Commentators have reacted to the new statistics with more calls for the importance of marriage to receive greater recognition in public policy.
Kathy Gyngell, of the Centre for Policy Studies, has warned that Britain’s “rising level of social dysfunction mirrors a rising level of family fragmentation”.
She added: “That so many more of our children are now disadvantaged and neglected is rooted in the fact that so many more are being born to lone and cohabiting parents, while the Government remains wedded to the politically correct myth that this is OK.”
Speaking on the BBC’s Today Programme earlier this week, Conservative MP David Willetts said many people aspire to get married but added “we’ve made it tougher for people to achieve those aspirations”.
Mr Willetts’ claim is backed up by a recent report by think-tank Civitas, which found that 76 per cent of 20 to 24-year-olds surveyed wanted to get married one day.
However, campaigners have highlighted evidence showing that the British tax and benefits system can have the effect of discouraging marriage.
A recent study from the Royal Economic Society shows a mother is £100 a week better off if she splits from her husband.
The Christian charity CARE has also produced a report showing that British traditional families receives less support than their counterparts in many other developed countries because the tax and benefits system here is skewed towards single-parent families.