UK in family breakdown 'epidemic'


The UK has one of the highest rates of family breakdown in the Western world with just two thirds of children living with both parents, according to research by a global development organisation.

The UK comes only behind Belgium, Latvia and Estonia in the list of countries where both a child's father and mother live in the same household.

The analysis by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) showed that just 68.9 per cent of children live with both parents in the UK, well below the average of 84 per cent.

The figures have been described as symptomatic of an "appalling epidemic of family breakdown" by social justice campaigners.

The lowest percentage of all was in Latvia at 64.9 per cent, while the highest was in Finland where it stood at 95.2 per cent.

The UK is in contrast to other Western European countries such as Germany which stands at 82 per cent, Italy at 92.1 per cent, Spain at 91.5 per cent and France at 79.5 per cent. The United States also had a much higher number of children living with both parents, at 70.7 per cent.

The figures, which looked at the living arrangements of children aged between 0 and 14 in 30 OECD member countries, relate to 2007.

They also show that the proportion of children living with their mother and not their father in the UK is 27.6 per cent, while for those living with only their father it is just 2.4 per cent.

Only Latvia has a higher percentage of children living with only their mother, at 30.2 per cent.

Christian Guy, managing director at the Centre for Social Justice, said: "Timid politicians are becoming numb to Britain's sky-high family breakdown rates. Behind too many front doors family instability damages adults and children. Yet, as these OECD figures show, broken families are not some inevitable feature of modern society or 'social progress'.

"All kinds of transformational help can be offered to parents and couples when they come under life's pressures. It is time for people who oppose things that would stem the tide of breakdown, such as backing marriage as the most stable path for children, to stop playing politics. Our forgotten families need all the help we can offer."

Harry Benson, communications director at the Marriage Foundation, said the statistics should "convince politicians of all colours of their utter failure to deal with the central social problem of our times".

He added: "The latest UK data tells us that 450 of every 1,000 children will experience the break-up of their parents before their 16th birthday, largely the result of the trend away from marriage, in particular the collapse of unmarried families.

"This appalling epidemic of family breakdown costs the taxpayer at least £44 billion per year, more than the defence budget. Yet government has no policy whatsoever to reduce or prevent the continued rise.

"The Marriage Foundation has been established with a primary purpose to confront this very serious national issue. We will not rest until the tide has been turned."