Nearly half of all children in the country will see their parents, whether married or unmarried, split up by their 16th birthday. Marriage is getting less popular and births outside of marriage are at an all time high.
The percentage of births outside of marriage had been around 5% until the 1960s when it doubled to 10%. It moved to 30% by the beginning of the 1990s and is now at 45%. So today nearly half of all children are born into either cohabiting or fatherless families.
Divorce is on the decline but relationship breakdown is on the increase
Whilst there are less marriages today at around 260,000 (from a peak of 480,000 in 1972) than there have been since 1895 the number or relationship breakdowns has increased markedly. The highest rate of increase being amongst non married couples. So are there any differences in the expectation of the quality of life between these two groups of children?
The children of married parents do better
Research shows that children brought up by a lone parent on average do much less well than those brought up by two parents. They are 75% more likely to fail at school and 50% more likely to have alcohol or drug problems.
Combine this with other studies which show that cohabiting couples with children are far less stable than married couples with children and there you have a powerful argument for families with fathers.
Relationship breakdown depends upon the nature of the relationship
Statistics show this in simple stark numbers. 9% of married couples are divorced by the time their children are five. This contrasts markedly with 26% for cohabitating couples splitting up.
A massive 60% of people who described themselves as being closely involved at the time of the birth split before the before their children are five. The formal commitment of marriage appears to give greater stability to the relationship. Stability really matters because it's the breakdown of that relationship that causes the potential for damage to your kids.
How to minimise the effects of a break up
Divorce and family breakup happens. Given that couples married or unmarried will split up how can the damage to the children be minimised? The key to this is to end the relationship in a way that allows for cooperation between you so that the father can continue to have a meaningful relationship with his children.
This is so important. It's not saying that mothers cannot do a great job bringing up kids, they can. It's just that mothers and fathers are different and kids who only live with one also need the influence of the other, be the missing other the father or the mother.
Divorce is never going to be a win win situation. There are those who win a bit and those who lose a bit. The key to a ‘good' divorce is to make sure the children's needs are catered for over and above your own.