Research shows that marital status in itself has little causal impact on child outcomes, with differences more likely to be explained by ‘selection effect’ (ie the difference between the types of people who choose to get married and those that choose to cohabit) (i)
On average, children who experience single parenthood during their childhood have poorer cognitive outcomes than those that grow up in families that remain “intact”. However, research shows that family structure in itself has little effect on children’s cognitive and emotional outcomes once other factors such as parental education are taken into account (ii).This pattern is confirmed by more recent analysis of the Millenium Cohort Study, focusing on health, cognitive and behavioural outcomes at ages 5, 7 and 11 (iii).
Recent research focusing on life satisfaction, relationships with peers and feelings about family life found these to be more positive for those children who were, or had been, part of a single parent family (iv).
There is no robust estimation on the cost of ‘relationship breakdown’; the only existing attempts to estimate this are strongly limited – in particular, they do not confine costs to the causal impact of separation and associated costs are largely without an evidence base. (v)