Marriage 'not key to good relationships'
Marriage is not the deciding factor in making relationships between parents more stable when children are young, research has suggested.
The findings by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) revealed relationship stability was mainly determined by other factors, including age, education, occupation and income, plus delaying and planning pregnancy, rather than the institution of marriage itself.
These factors were also influential in whether people opted to marry or not.
The IFS said the research cast doubt on the Government's aim of promoting marriage in order to reduce the rate of parental separation.
The IFS analysis was undertaken by Alissa Goodman and Ellen Greaves and is published this month in its briefing paper, Cohabitation, marriage and relationship stability.
Data was interpreted from the Millennium Cohort Study - a national longitudinal study of a sample of children born in 2000 and their parents. The analysis highlighted that while cohabiting parents were more likely to split up than married ones, there was little evidence that marriage was the cause of greater stability between parents, or that encouraging more people to get married would result in fewer couples splitting up.
According to the IFS's findings, parents who were cohabiting when their child was born were three times more likely to split up by the time their child was five than married parents (27% compared to 9%).
However they were also typically younger, less well off, less likely to own their own homes, have fewer educational qualifications and were less likely to plan their pregnancies than married people. Once the differences between the two groups were accounted for, the difference in the likelihood of separation reduced to two percentage points.
It concluded that while married couples had more stable relationships than couples who cohabited, this was not because they were married, but because of the other characteristics they had that led to marriage.
Ellen Greaves, research economist at the IFS said: "The evidence suggests that much of the difference in relationship stability between married and cohabiting parents is due to pre-existing differences between the kinds of people who get married before they have children, compared to those that cohabit."