The Family: Average age for first-time mothers higher than ever: The Government's statistical survey depicts prosperous and well-educated Britons deserting 'traditional' lifestyles. David Nicholson-Lord reports

THE AGE at which women are having their first baby is higher than ever. The proportion of births outside marriage has more than doubled in the past decade. And for every two marriages in 1991 there was one divorce.

The theme of families under stress, central to recent political debates on single parenthood and the Government's back to basics campaign, is confirmed in the latest issue of Social Trends, the Central Statistical Office publication which aims to provide a 'biography' of British society.

The 24th edition, published today, coincides with the International Year of the Family. It depicts a Britain wealthier, healthier and probably better educated than ever but with the 'traditional' family subjected to increasing strains through cohabitation, marriage break-up, lone motherhood and new work patterns.

Among the statistical highlights is the age at which women have their first child within marriage. At 27.8 years in 1992, this is the highest on record, part of a trend towards older child-bearing evident since the early 1970s. In the 1980s, fertility rates for women in their twenties fell. For teenagers, it rose by 18 per cent. For women between 35 and 39 it rose by 48 per cent.

Some of the changes to marriage, while of long-standing, have accelerated in the past decade. The proportion of births outside marriage, for example, has been increasing since the late 1950s but took more than 20 years to rise from 5 to 10 per cent of all births.

By 1992, one in three births was outside marriage: more than half of these, however, were registered to parents at the same address, indicating a stable relationship. Nearly one in five unmarried men and women aged between 16 and 59 were cohabiting in 1992.

But Social Trends also throws light on the rise of lone parenthood. Out of 7.2 million mothers in 1991, nearly 1.2 million were single parents. As a proportion of all families with children, one-parent families nearly doubled between 1976 and 1991, from 10 to 19 per cent.

Family patterns also vary with ethnic background. In 1961 more than half of people in Britain lived in a household made up of a couple with dependent children. In 1992 the figure had fallen to 40 per cent.

However, the 'traditional' family structure is still relatively common among households of Asian origin - Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, Indians and Chinese. It is least common among blacks. And more than half of West Indian mothers were single parents - compared with one in ten Pakistani and Bangladeshi mothers and one in six whites.

Solitary living continues to increase. Twenty-seven per cent of households in 1991 consisted of one person living alone - up from 22 per cent in 1981 and 14 per cent in 1961. Female pensioners formed the largest group of one-person households but the biggest rise has come in men under pensionable age. Nearly one in ten households in Britain at the end of the century will consist of a man under 65 living alone.

Social Trends; HMSO; pounds 27.

(Graphs omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Joe Cocker performing on the Stravinski hall stage during the Montreux Jazz Festival, in Montreux, Switzerland in 2002
musicHe 'turned my song into an anthem', says former Beatle
News
Clarke Carlisle
sport
Sport
footballStoke City vs Chelsea match report
Arts and Entertainment
David Hasselhof in Peter Pan
theatreThe US stars who've taken to UK panto, from Hasselhoff to Hall
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
News
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
News
Coca-Cola has become one of the largest companies in the world to push staff towards switching off their voicemails, in a move intended to streamline operations and boost productivity
peopleCoca-Cola staff urged to switch it off to boost productivity
Environment
Sir David Attenborough
environment... as well as a plant and a spider
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Regulatory / Compliance / Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Exeter - An excellent opportunity for a Solici...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - 12 Month Fixed Term - Shrewsbury

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'