The latest batch of data released by the Millennium Cohort study has revealed that the number of children who are living with both of their parents has plummeted by a third in the space of just one generation.
Over one in three children will, by the time they finish primary school, have had to cope with a major upheaval to their home life such as seeing their parents divorce or separate. However, although the study shows evidence of a strong link between the breakdown of families and issues such as poverty or behavioural issues, it also demonstrates that despite all this, children are still surprisingly happy.
The study has looked at the lives of 13,000 children who were born at the start of the new century and paints a vivid picture of what it’s like to be a child living in Britain today. Covering a huge range of issues, the survey sheds light on everything from what time children go to bed, through to how intelligent they are and their use of social network websites.
When it comes to family life, the data shows that just 61 per cent of the children in the study were living with both of their parents by the time they were 11 years old, a figure which is down by 85 per cent in comparison to just two years earlier. A similar study which followed the lives of people born thirty years earlier showed that 90 per cent were still living with both of their parents by the time they were 11.
Despite the fact that the study shows that more than one in five of the children whose parents had divorced or separated had behavioural or emotional issues, two thirds of the children said that were ‘completely happy’ with their family life. According to researchers, although the children living in stable families were the happiest overall, the difference in happiness between children from different types of families was surprisingly small.
The report concludes by saying: “It is noteworthy that the disadvantages of family break-up may impinge more directly on the adult’s experience, in the labour and housing markets, and on their mental health, and the stress of single-handed parenting, than on the 11-year-olds themselves. The children’s report of their own happiness is less differentiated by family structure than the parents’ report of behavioural difficulties.”