Childhood sweethearts more likely to endure the earlier you were born, study reveals

How the baby boomers made it last, but Thatcher’s children couldn’t

They called it puppy love and said it would never last – but for many childhood sweethearts from the 1960s it did. For those who courted in the 1980s, however, the chances of their teenage romance ending in lifelong-marriage or cohabitation have almost disappeared.

A new study has found that nearly a third of couples in their sixties are still with the person they first fell for. The findings contrast sharply with the generation that grew up under Margaret Thatcher, now aged in their forties and fifties, just 14 per cent of whom are still together.

Research suggests that enduring childhood sweethearts are becoming an endangered species, as young people have more relationships and delay getting married and settling down – giving them greater opportunity to meet potential partners. Greater levels of geographic mobility and job changes have also contributed to relationships being less likely to endure.

A “great delay” between childhood and the traditional milestones of lawn, slippers and baby is the result of growing numbers going to university and soaring house prices since the 1980s. It means that two generations have taken advantage of an extended pre-adult phase of their lives and greater sexual experimentation.

Nearly half of those approaching or already in retirement had a child before they were 25 – four times as many as the youngest group studied. Meanwhile, four out of 10 baby boomers owned their own home in their mid-twenties, compared with a fifth of those from the Twitter generation.

William Nelson of the Future Foundation, which devised the study, commissioned by The Co-operative, said adult life was simply starting later: “This ‘great delay’ in getting into jobs, the housing market and having kids is now having knock-on effects right through life – with people trading up to family-sized homes later on, and far fewer young grandparents around.

“At the same time, young adults have become more ‘impatient’ in terms of their life expectations. In these circumstances it’s not surprising that such a large majority of today’s thirty- and fortysomethings are feeling ‘delayed’ in reaching their life goals.”

But though they may be behind previous generations, young people today are more likely to have had a serious sexual relationship before their 20th birthday or travelled abroad than their grandparents were.

The survey of 2,000 people found that despite the delay in reaching milestones, young people were in many ways more impatient than the post-war generation. They anticipated being promoted more rapidly, owning a car more quickly, and paying off their mortgage before the age of 40.

But there was a sense of frustration among all adults, with 69 per cent saying that economic circumstances had thwarted their realisation of life goals. Most discontented were those aged 45-54. People in their sixties were less self-critical over their career and achievements, although they tended to be more scathing about society and external factors. 

Harry Benson of the relationship think-tank The Marriage Foundation said contraception and the rise of living together was central to the demise of the childhood sweetheart. “Birth control has helped break the link between marriage and childbirth. By the mid-1980s co-habitation was becoming increasingly normal. You could move in with someone without having to get married or necessarily have much of a plan for the future.”

Case study: ‘We still enjoy each other’s company. I feel lucky’

John, 61, said: “She was being chatted up by my little brother, so I moved in. I thought Joy was the best-looking girl there and certainly the most attractive in our circle.”

Joy recalls it slightly differently. “He had a reputation and I had seen him from afar. I suppose you could say I was on a mission,” she said.

The couple, originally from Pudsey, near Leeds, courted, moved south and married in 1974 aged 21, setting up home in the West Midlands away from family.

Their first daughter, Adele, was born in 1980, and their son, John, three years later. “Ours has been a life lived together,” said Joy, 60.

“Being away from the family had to make us stronger. We have had to rely on each other,” she said. “I don’t think we have missed out – our lives have just been different,” she added. “I feel very lucky,” said John. “We enjoy each other’s company and if we go on holiday we really enjoy being together.”

The couple’s children, who are now in their thirties, have taken different paths. Their son is getting married at Christmas and their daughter, who is not married, is expecting a baby.

“I look at them and I think they are really well-matched with their partners and I am confident they will stay together,” said John.

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
i100

Other places that have held independence referendums
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur
film

It scooped up an unprecedented 11 Academy Awards when it was first remade in 1959

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
News
news

Arts and Entertainment
Blossoming love: Colin Firth as Stanley and Emma Stone as Sophie, in 'Magic in the Moonlight'
film

Actors star in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
Arts and Entertainment
Maxine Peake plays Hamlet at Manchester's Royal Exchange
theatreReview: Maxine Peake brings emotional ferocity to Shakespeare's starring part
News
news

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

Travel
travel

...and the perfect time to visit them

Sport
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)
football

Newcastle winger reveals he has testicular cancer - and is losing his trademark long hair as a result

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    SEN Teaching Assistant Runcorn

    £50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant EBD , Septemb...

    Head of Marketing - London

    £60000 - £85000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Interim Head of Marketing / Marketin...

    Primary supply teachers needed in Downham Market

    £21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary teachers requ...

    SEN Teacher

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Birmingham: SEN Teacher required with immediate...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week