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WED ALERT; RELATIONSHIP SURVEY.

Byline: CLAIRE BRENNAN

A GROWING number of Irish couples are choosing to "live in sin" before walking down the aisle, a study revealed yesterday.

The Economic and Social Research Institute survey showed marriage rates have dropped for those in their 20s because people prefer to live together before taking their vows.

The number of cohabiting couples jumped four fold between 1986 and 2006, and by 2006 twice as many unmarried 25-year-olds were living together.

Marriage rates for 30-somethings increased during the same 20-year period, proving couples plan to get hitched eventually.

But setting up home together before taking the plunge doesn't guarantee a happy ending.

The study showed the number of marriage break-ups sky-rocketed by 500% from 40,000 in 1986 to just under 200,000 in 2006.

And the 1997 introduction of divorce did not lead to a surge in separation cases despite predictions from religious groups that it would result in the end of the family.

Mary Hanafin, Social and Family Affairs Minister, said the report would help drive Government policy.

She added: "This project is unique as it is the first time researchers have access to the full 2006 CSO Census file and so allows a more in-depth study of family life.

"The report will be a valuable resource for policy makers and those interested in how families are developing in Ireland."

The figures also showed married couples with one child are up to 30% more likely to split than those with a bigger family or no children at all.

And there were more than 10,000 lone fathers in Ireland with just one in eight of these living with their children.

FIGURES SHOW CHANGE IN PRIORITIES

THE figures from the ESR I show:

MARRIAGE rates dropped for those in their 20s and jumped for 30-somethings. Delay is partly due to people shying away from commit-ment or living together before taking vows.

THE number of cohabiting couples jumped four times between 1986 and 2006.

NUMBER of same-sexcouples living together is lowat just 0.15% of 15-59-year-olds.

IN 2006, 57% of lone parents never married. The number who suffered break-ups was 35% and increasing.

THERE is a strong link between poor education and the likelihood of becoming a never-married single mother.

MOST women put off having children until they are over 30, with the majority having two or three. More than one in six have no children at the age of 45.

BETTER educated women are more likely to put off having children and the fewer they are likely to have.

CAPTION(S):

SAD FACT More marriages are ending in divorce HAPPY NEVER AFTER? Couples are choosing not to get married
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Title Annotation:Editorial
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Feb 23, 2010
Words:443
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