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Marriage and Family

Lifetime divorce risk for newlyweds lowest since 1969

14 May 2019

To coincide with National Marriage Week 2019, the Marriage Foundation commissioned data from the ONS that enabled them to calculate and project divorce rates for each ‘year of marriage’ since 1963.

The results show that the lifetime risk of divorce[1], i.e the percentage of married couples who will ever get divorced, is 35% for couples marrying today. This is a significant drop from a peak of 44% for couples who married in 1986 and in fact, takes us back to divorce levels of the 1960s.

This encouraging research shows that most newlyweds are really serious about the commitment they are making.

Marriage rates decline

Sadly, whilst divorce rates are dropping so too are marriage rates. Marriage rates for 2015, the most recent year we have comprehensive data on, were the lowest ever on record.[2]

This means that millions of couples are now cohabiting, so much so that the majority of family breakdown is now from cohabiting parents. Cohabiting parents make up 19% of all couples with dependent children, but account for half of all family breakdown.[3]

The big challenge, therefore, facing UK society this National Marriage Week is how to encourage more couples to commit to one another and get married. The vast majority of unmarried 18-24 year olds want to get married, but on current trends only 57% of today’s teenage girls and 55% of teenage boys will ever get married.[4]

This huge mismatch between aspirations and reality demands attention.

What now?

CARE is calling on the Government to follow up its rhetoric that it backs marriage and craft policy and law that aims at increasing the marriage rate, reducing cultural and fiscal barriers to marriage, and sustains marriages in the long term.

I'm going to stick by you: Lyndon and Celia's story

This week we released a short film to mark NMW with our very own Chairman Lyndon Bowring and his wife Celia. They reflect on 45 years of marriage together. We've also published three blogs so far on kindness, intimacy and friendship - with more to follow as the week progresses.

Find out more

Find out more about National Marriage Week here.

Find out more about CARE’s work on Marriage and Family here.


Marriage and Family

Strong families are foundational to a healthy society. Marriages too are vital, representing the gold standard of commitment. CARE is committed to upholding both.

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