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Figures published yesterday in the Office for National Statistics (ONS) publication Social Trends show that more women are having children than getting married compared with the 1970s.
According to the ONS, in the 1970s nearly 80 per cent of women were married by 25, compared with 25 per cent now. About 50 per cent of 25-year-old females in the late 1970s had given birth compared with 30 per cent now, which is more than the number getting married.
The figures show that the annual number of marriages recorded in England and Wales in 2006, at 237,000 marriages, was the lowest recorded number since 1895. People are generally getting married later in life and women are delaying motherhood, while grandparents are likely to be helping out with child care.
The average age at first marriage in the UK has risen from 29.3 years in 1996 to 31.8 in 2006 for men and from 27.2 to 29.7 for women, while the average age of women in England and Wales at the birth of their first child was 27.5 years in 2007 compared with 23.7 years in 1971.
When it comes to child care, nearly a third of families in Great Britain in 2006, where the mother was in work, relied on informal childcare provision from the child's grandparents.
The annual publication, which this year has the theme of households, families and children, also shows that many children are experiencing poor housing, health or well-being.
Nearly a third of households with children in England live in poor housing, nearly a third of children are classed as overweight or obese, and around a quarter of young people have been a victim of personal crime.
But fewer children are now living in low income households and more children are taking part in school sports.
Nearly a third of all households with dependent children in England in 2006 were found to be living in 'non-decent' homes that do not meet sufficient standards of upkeep, facilities, insulation and heating.
In addition, the number of children counselled by Childline in the UK has increased substantially. In particular, the number of boys who contacted Childline more than doubled from 24,115 calls and letters in 1997/98 to 58,311 in 2007/08, increasing from 21 per cent of all contacts to 33 per cent.