Nearly one in two children born today will suffer family breakdown by the age of 16, according to a new analysis of figures from the Office for National Statistics and the Millennium Cohort Study.
According to a study carried out jointly by the Bristol Community Family Trust and the Centre for Social Justice, the probability of a child's parents splitting up by the time they are 16 has risen from 40% in the mid-1980s to 48% today.
The report also claims that divorce is not the main cause of breakdown in families. The increase in lone parenthood is due to the collapse of cohabiting relationships, says the researchers. While married parents account for 54 per cent of births, divorced parents account for only 20 per cent.
The Centre for Social Justice think-tank was set up by the former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith, who stood down as Chairman on his appointment as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in May 2010. Gavin Poole, the executive director, said: "These new figures underline the alarming and growing level of family breakdown in the UK. This imposes huge costs on society - both in terms of human unhappiness and financial burdens.
"It is well known that children from broken homes do less well at school and are more likely to turn to drugs, alcohol and crime. As for the financial penalties, the taxpayer is spending at least £20 billion a year trying to repair the damage done by family breakdown.
"New steps, such as tax breaks for marriage and far better relationship education, should be taken by Ministers and society at large to reverse these worrying social trends."