Marriage 'does not bring stability'

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The Independent Online

Marriage does not make relationships more stable when children are young, according to new research. The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) found that while cohabiting parents are more likely to split up than married couples, there is little evidence marriage brings stability to relationships, or that encouraging more people to get married would result in fewer splits.

The research appears to undermine the Government's aim of promoting marriage as a way to keep families together.

Parents who are cohabiting when their child is born are three times more likely to split up by the time their child is five than married parents. However they are also typically younger, poorer and less likely to plan their pregnancies than married people. The analysis showed that once these differences between the two groups are accounted for, the difference in the likelihood of separation almost disappears.

"Much of the difference in relationship stability is due to pre-existing differences between the kinds of people who get married before they have children, compared to those that cohabit," said Ellen Greaves, economist at the IFS.

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