London: Nearly half of children born today in Britain will be living in broken homes by the age of 16 as growing numbers of families split up.
The sharp increase in unmarried couples having children was to blame for the rise in parental separation rates, says a study from the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) think-tank in the UK.
The report called for a major shift in policy to reassert the "vital" importance of marriage as a more stable form of commitment than cohabitation.
The research suggested that the taxpayer spent billions of pounds on benefits for single parents as a result of the "utterly avoidable" breakdown in families every year, reports the Telegraph.
It followed concerns from Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, that society pays a "heavy price" for separation, in terms of the cost of crimes committed by children from broken homes, lost taxes and rising benefit bills.
Growing numbers of couples are choosing to start a family without getting married first. But the study cited figures showing that unmarried couples were more likely to separate.
It warned that the number of children who will see their parents split up by the time they are 16 had risen from 40 percent in the mid-1980s to 48 percent today.
The study drew on figures from the Office for National Statistics and the Millennium Cohort Study and took account of differing levels of education and income.
It was authored by Harry Benson, founder of the Bristol Community Family Trust, a relationship education charity.
Benson said ministers should focus on improving the stability of unmarried couples through education and policies that promote marriage.
In 1980 there were one million single parents, but this has now doubled, he said. "Something has gone badly wrong in the intervening years and no government has got to grips with the problem."
Gavin Poole, the executive director of the CSJ, said "it is well known that children from broken homes do less well at school and are more likely to turn to drugs, alcohol and crime."