A major new study from the Marriage Foundation has shown a link between marriage and the likelihood of couples staying together until their children reach their teenage years.
The report, Sources of family breakdown in the UK, tracked 4,476 mothers with children born between 2000-2002 from the Millennium Cohort Study.
Taking into account a wide range of background factors such as ethnicity, age, time lived together, education and relationship happiness, the study found that the probability of splitting up rose to 46 per cent for never married parents.
Just 16 per cent of never married couples were still intact by the time their children were in their teenage years.
By contrast, 84 per cent of married couples were still together by the time their children turned 14.
Harry Benson, research director of The Marriage Foundation and author of the report, said the statistics showed “the simple truth that marriage matters”.
“There are many reasons why this is the case, but at its simplest level this is because the act of marriage involves a clear mutual decision about your future together. It sends a big signal that puts both people on the same page and removes any lingering doubts and ambiguities,” he said.
Marriage Foundation founder Sir Paul Coleridge said, “Every experienced parent knows that if adolescents are to successfully navigate the scary teenage years they need a secure and a stable family environment.
“The moral of the story is that if you want to experience the rich rewards of fully enjoying your children through their tricky teenage years marrying the other parent is a crucial first step.”
The report also found that divorce accounts for less than a third of all family breakdown in the UK, standing at 10 per cent of breakdowns involving first-born children aged three, and rising to 31 per cent of breakdown involving children aged 14.
“The second myth which this research yet again debunks is that family breakdown is mostly about married couples getting divorced. Just not true,” said Sir Paul.
“The unchallenged fact is that divorce rates have been dropping for decades and, as a consequence, if you marry today you will probably still be married for the rest of your life.
“Family breakdown is three times more common amongst unmarried couples. Perhaps one day we shall be blessed with a government who take these graphic statistics seriously and, by clear policies, support marriage unequivocally.”
Mr Benson echoed these calls.
“This report yet again challenges the Government and all politicians who say they are concerned with the impact of family breakdown as to why they are not doing more to support marriage,” he said.
“Our leaders are failing to support the thousands and thousands of young couples who still aspire to marry.”