More lovers `mean more divorces'

SERIAL COHABITORS who eventually marry are up to six times more likely to get divorced than those who marry their first live-in partner or those who only move in together after marriage.

New research, published yesterday, reveals that those who marry the first person they live with have the same chance of staying together as people who marry without cohabiting first.

Previous research has shown that people who cohabit before marriage are more likely to break up, but the new findings show that this is only true for people who have lived with more than one person before tying the knot.

"It doesn't matter if people in their first union live together before they get married," said John Haskey of the Office of National Statistics."Only people who have lived with more than one person are at higher risk of divorce."

The report on cohabitation and marriage by the ONS shows that three- quarters of the adult population have only ever lived in one partnership. Two-thirds are married and one in eight cohabit. Only one in 100 adults reported living with more than five people during their lifetime.

The social stigma surrounding people living together without being married has all but disappeared. By the late 1980s only about 40 per cent of people of first unions involved people getting married without living together first.

One-third of people who decided to marry the person they were living with did so to strengthen their marriage. A further 25 per cent said that wanting or having children was the trigger to marry.

More than half of those who got married because of children ended up divorcing, compared with only a third of those who said they wanted to strengthen their relationship. More than two-thirds of people who said that they felt pressured into marriage by family or friends got divorced.