One in four Northern Ireland children born into a single parent home
More than a quarter of children born in Northern Ireland last year were to a single parent household.
Figures gathered from birth certificate records by the Office for National Statistics show that 1,197 babies (5%) were registered by their mother alone with no record of the father, while a further 5,154 (21%) listed details of the dad but showed he was living at a different address.
In Belfast more than four in 10 babies (41%) were born in single parent households, with 364 (8%) registered by their mother alone, with no record of the father, and 1,522 (33%) where the father was not living in the family home.
Across Northern Ireland more than half of babies (56.5%) were registered by parents who were married or in a same-sex civil partnership, 4% higher than the UK average. However, this fell to 42.4% in Belfast.
The statistics also show that more couples (17%) who are becoming parents are choosing to cohabit rather than marry.
When counted alongside those who are married or in a civil partnership, it means that 74% of babies born in Northern Ireland had a family setting that includes two parents at home.
South Belfast MLA Clare Bailey, who raised two children on her own, said society should show more respect to single parents.
“I believe that the shame and stigma hasn’t gone away — unless you are a single parent you have little understanding of the sacrifice involved in doing the job of two people,” she said. “In schools and at a community level the stigma has been lessened, but not in public decision-making.
“Welfare is a prime example which targets single parents and rewards two-parent families. If we really care about children, we should be investing more in single parents.”
However, the former editor of the Church of Ireland Gazette, Canon Ian Ellis, said that marriage was the best environment in which to raise a child, and encouraged all unmarried couples to “consider marriage”.
He said: “Sadly, many marriages do break down and I recognise that single parents face particular challenges and so often meet those challenges with real commitment to the welfare of their children.”
The Rev David McLaughlin of Carryduff Free Presbyterian Church said the statistics were a “reflection of the whole of society in a spiritual context”.