Danger: Having a baby is bad for your relationship
THE pressures of parenthood will lead more than half of all unmarried couples to separate, new research has revealed.
A study found that, far from bringing unmarried couples together, the arrival of children could have a "negative impact" on partners, especially if they conceived as a precursor to marriage.
And, said experts, as many couples decided against marriage, there would be more single-parent families across the UK.
The trend mirrors a series of celebrity relationships which failed as the would-be parents realised that three is most definitely a crowd.
The television presenter Ulrika Jonsson was dumped by German businessman Marcus Kempen days after she gave birth to their daughter, Bo, in November 2000. The new-born was found to have a hole in her heart, and Ulrika claimed that she had to return to work within weeks when Kempen refused to provide financial support for the infirm infant.
French actress, Isabelle Adjani, had talked of marriage after a six-year relationship with Irish actor, Daniel Day Lewis. But the Last of the Mohicans star faxed his long-term partner in 1999 to call-off the relationship after she revealed that she was pregnant.
Day Lewis later claimed that he "had the most on-off relationship in the world", with the actress who later gave birth to their child, Gabriel-Kane. Day Lewis followed in his father’s footsteps, when it emerged he too has fathered a love-child.
However, away from the wealth and fame of celebrity, the latest study of 5,500 households across the UK conducted by the Institute of Social and Economic Research at Essex University, showed that although a birth temporarily extended the time an unmarried couple stayed together, some 65 per cent of them would eventually split up.
Far from the traditional image of a shotgun wedding, those who did have children, would be less likely to marry within a year and were, statistically, more at risk of separation within a ten-year period.
The findings reflected trends which show that more children than ever before are born out of wedlock, with 22 per cent in 1997, compared to just two per cent in 1977, when society still considered it shameful.
Similarly, in the 1990s, about 80 per cent of first partnerships were unmarried, compared to one-third in the 1970s.
Professor John Ermish, who led the study, said that the trend pointed to more couples - unsure whether they should tie the knot - deciding to have a child first; while those couples who know they want to marry, waiting until after their union before conceiving.
The study carried out by the institute also revealed a note of consolation for live-in couples who do split, with 70 per cent finding love in new cohabiting relationships within five years.
Although, they may have secured a brighter future for their children, married couples who decide to split fared worse, with just 43 per cent finding a committed partner within five years.
They were partly hindered by their age, with the average marriage break-up leaving partners aged 48 on average, compared to the 31-year-olds who left cohabiting relationships.
Commenting on the study, Professor Malcolm Hill, a child welfare expert at the University of Glasgow, said that many cohabiting relationships falter after a birth, because the traditional support mechanisms no longer existed.
He said: "Amongst the most vulnerable, there is often a need for help and support which is both practical and emotional. The close support that used to be available from family and friends is not always available now and in those circumstances people can be left feeling isolated. Perhaps, that shows a need for more formal services, whether that be counselling, family centres or mediation services."
Prof Hill added: "It is important for people to consider before they have children, what will be the long-term needs of that child and how they can best meet those needs. Although regrettable, if the commitment is simply because of a pregnancy, then it is not surprising that those relationships break down after the birth."
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