Unwed Parents Common in UK

From the November 2007 Trumpet Print Edition

Within a generation, most British children will not know what it is like to have married parents, according to figures published October 4 by the UK Office for National Statistics.

The report found that the number of unmarried couples living together has soared 65 percent in the past decade. It forecasts an additional 250 percent increase by 2031 for ages 45 to 64, at which point cohabitating couples and single mothers will dominate the average British household.

Britain currently has 2.6 million single mothers, an 8 percent increase in the past 10 years. In London, 22 percent of families are led by single moms. Additionally, only 70 percent of Britain’s cohabiting couples are married.

Does it really make any difference, though?

The same report indicates that Britain suffers with every married two-parent household it loses. Children living with married parents are statistically more likely to earn good marks in the classroom and continue their formal education for longer. Children living without married parents not only do worse at school, but they also are more likely to contract serious illnesses.

The report also found that single mothers are less healthy than their married counterparts, even linking illness with divorce and separation. On the other hand, married women in the 40-to-64 demographic have “significant health advantages.” Mothers are also healthier than women who did not have children.

Husbands gain better health from marriage as well, and their wives enjoy better financial circumstances.

Some sociologists and policy experts are joining those who say the government should promote marriage and stop rewarding cohabitation. “There should no longer be any argument about the importance of marriage,” the Center for Policy Studies’ Jill Kirby said. “It is not simply traditional, it protects children best and gives them the optimum start” (Telegraph, October 5).

“People used to say it made no difference how you lived, but we have lots of research now which shows it does,” Robert Whelan, deputy director of think tank Civitas, said. “However, if you have a tax and benefit system which rewards cohabitation and living apart, this is what happens” (ibid.).

Conservative leader David Cameron said it was dangerous to ignore that “one in two cohabitating parents split up before their child’s fifth birthday, compared to one in 12 married parents” (ibid.). Cameron called family breakdown the “central factor” in Britain’s social breakdown.

As the family deteriorates into minority status in Britain, watch for the nation’s social problems to multiply. For more on the real, inspiring purpose of marriage, request our free booklet Why Marriage! Soon Obsolete?