Almost half of babies in Britain are now born outside marriage, and many of them will end up being raised by only one parent, a new study warns. The report, based on an analysis of 10,000 households over 18 years, says there are long-term negative consequences for those who grow up with either just a mother or a father. On the whole these children do worse at school, are less likely to get good jobs and suffer more health problems, the research claims — contradicting some government ministers who say there is no ideal household to grow up in.

John Ermisch, a Professor of Economics at the University of Essex who analysed the data, said the extra-marital births were primarily due to “the increase in people’s tendency to cohabit in their first partnership and to have children within these unions”. However, cohabiting relationships were typically unstable, and where the couple did not marry after two years they usually broke up. “The unions which produce children are much less likely to be converted into marriage are more likely to break up than childless ones.”

Prof Ermisch said only 35 per cent of cohabiting couples stay together until their children turn 16, compared with 70 per cent of married couples. Single mothers also took longer to find another partner, which leaves their children growing up without a father figure.

On average, children born into a single-mother household spend 7.8 years of their first 16 years without a second parent, data from the British Household Panel Survey shows. Those born to couples living together spend 4.7 years with just one parent. But those born to married parents spend all but 1.6 years of their childhood with two parents. ~ The Telegraph (UK), Sep 23

Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is the former deputy editor of MercatorNet