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The study by pro-marriage think tank the Marriage Foundation found cohabiting couples with children were three times more likely to break up than their married counterparts. The research compared the stability of married and unmarried parents grouped into five socio-economic groups over 10 years.
The study found that the stability gap between marriage and cohabitation was present in all five groups.
The report said: “Amongst the very richest parents, 2.9 percent split up if cohabiting versus one percent if married.
“Amongst the very poorest, 8.9 percent split up if cohabiting versus 2.8 percent if married.
“Remarkably, the very poorest married couples are slightly more likely to remain together than the very richest cohabiting parents.
“The only cohabitees who do better are the second richest group who split at a rate of 2.3 percent.”
Harry Benson, research director of the Marriage Foundation, said: “These figures demonstrate, yet again that marriage remains the most stable form of relationship especially for raising children and is more important than income on couples sticking together.
“Even once we controlled for mothers’ age, education, ethnicity, relationship happiness and income, the odds of cohabiting parents splitting up are consistently twice as high as married parents.
“This explains why our analysis shows that nearly nine in ten of all intact couples with 13-15 year children are married.”
The report said marriage rates have plummeted since the all-time peak in England and Wales in 1973, but divorce rates are at the lowest levels since the 1960s.
Sir Paul Coleridge, founder of the Marriage Foundation, called on politicians to “unequivocally promote marriage for the sake of all of society”.
He said: “When almost exactly 10 years ago we established Marriage Foundation to champion marriage for all of society our basic message was that marriage is the ‘gold standard’ for couple relationships especially if you have children.
“Now according to our very latest research, far from the shine on the gold having dimmed over time marriages have become more stable and divorce rates have dropped to their lowest level since the swinging sixties.
“It remains the majority aspiration for all young people, 80 percent of all couples are married and 86 percent of parents with teenage children are too.
“The simple fact is that whether you are or are not well off you are three times more likely to stay together than if you cohabit.
“And this statistic has scarcely changed over our first decade.
“Surely it is time for politicians of all persuasions to grasp the nettle and unequivocally promote marriage for the sake of all of society especially our children?”
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