Children from broken homes are almost five times as likely to suffer from emotional disorders as those whose parents stay together, new research shows. The findings from the Office of National Statistics add to mounting evidence of the damage caused by family breakdown.
Family breakdown was more significant than other ‘household’ factors such as financial circumstances, although having two unemployed parents was also a factor. Children from so-called ‘reconstituted’ families – containing step-parents and step-siblings – were also more likely to suffer emotional problems.
Patricia Morgan, an academic and expert on the subject of family breakdown, said: ‘This does not come as a surprise, and things are going to get worse. Broken families and serial fathers produce homes full of conflict and chaos and they are terrible for children’.
Although the study did not differentiate between married and cohabiting families, another study released recently by the Christian Institute shows that one in four children of cohabiting parents suffer family breakdown before they start school at the age of five. This compares with just one in ten children of married parents who experience a divorce or separation by the same stage.
One teacher speaking at the annual conference of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers in March warned that the children of ‘so-called blended families’ fell behind their peers from traditional families.
Phil Whalley said: ‘The great sadness is that the consequences of an unstable family background are felt long into adult life.
‘Those who under-achieve in their education are more likely to go on and live dysfunctional lives and be unable to support a stable family life for their own children. In short, as a society we are in danger of creating an expanding, perpetuating and toxic circle’.