Cohabiting Couples Twice as Likely to Split Up

Article excerpt

Byline: Steve Doughty Social Affairs Correspondent

COUPLES who live together are twice as likely to break up as married partners, according to an official analysis.

The survey of hundreds of thousands of families found that one out of five married couples had broken up after ten years.

But in the same period two out of five cohabiting couples had parted.

Another two in five had cemented their partnership by marrying, and only one in five were still living together.

The study by the Office for National Statistics said that marriage was more stable than cohabitation even when outside factors that might influence the fate of the relationship were considered. This means that married couples are more likely to stay together than cohabitees regardless of their age and whether they have children, and no matter the state of their health, their level of education, their social class or whether or not they had a job.

The finding undermines the claim of ministers that marriages are no more stable than informal partnerships once the influence of age and status is taken into account.

In January, Children's Secretary Ed Balls, who is leading Labour's campaign against Conservative plans to give tax breaks to married couples, said: 'Once you adjust for the fact that people who are married tend to marry older, be better educated and have higher incomes, you find it is not the legal form, it is the strength and stability of the relationship which is most important.' The study was based on more than 750,000 couples who filled in the census in both 1991 and 2001.

It found that 18 per cent of those who were married in 1991 were living apart ten years later, compared to 39 per cent of the cohabitees. …