One Child's Not Enough for the Single Mothers; Another [Pounds Sterling]142m Is Lost

Daily Mail (London), January 22, 1998 | Go to article overview

One Child's Not Enough for the Single Mothers; Another [Pounds Sterling]142m Is Lost


Byline: STEVE DOUGHTY

THE number of children being brought up by single parents has rocketed, according to Government figures.

The increase in families who make up many of the poorest and most troubled in the country points to a fast-developing spiral of dependency. It reveals a generation of women living without men, yet raising a growing number of children.

Between 1990 and 1995, the estimated number of single parent families leapt by 27 per cent to 1.56mil-lion, while the number of children in these families rose by 35 per cent to 2.7million, according to surveys revealed yesterday by the Office for National Statistics.

This means 22 per cent of all families are now run by one parent and one in five children is in a single parent family, with single mothers outnumbering lone fathers by ten to one.

The biggest leap in family size is among lone mothers who have never married. They now outnumber divorced women as the biggest group of single parents.

Yesterday's statistics, which came as Health Minister Tessa Jowell pledged to help lone parents get off benefits and in to work, prompted calls for the Government to give new support to the traditional family and marriage.

Miss Jowell said she was determined to stop the children of single mothers becoming 'the poverty statistics of the future', adding: 'These figures underline the urgency and importance of the Government's approach of offering support for lone parents who want to work.' The new statistics are based on the Government's General Household Survey and on the ONS Omnibus survey, which polls 2,000 Britons every month.

The ONS said: 'The number of dependent children living in one-parent families has been growing at a faster rate than the number of one-parent families. The proportion of one-parent families with only one child has fallen, while those with three or four children have grown.' While the average number of dependent children per one-parent family has increased steadily, the number in couple families has declined.

ONS statisticians calculate that the average number of children in two-parent families is now 1.85, down from more than two per family less than 30 years ago. By contrast, one-parent families now average 1.73 children.

Lone parents who have never married averaged 1.19 children per family in 1981, compared with 1.56 now.

The ONS analysts comment: 'Divorced mothers made up the highest proportion of lone mothers throughout most of the 1970s and 80s.

'However, from about 1986, when the incidence of births outside marriage began to rise at a faster rate, the proportion of single and never-married lone mothers started to increase more quickly and overtook divorced lone mothers in the early 1990s. …

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