Young families most likely to break up, research shows

The Australian February 01, 2010

Couples who separate tend to be poorer, less educated and more likely to be unemployed or suffer from mental illness than couples who stay together, according to new research. Separated couples are also more likely to have infants and preschoolers in their care, as opposed to older children. The findings, from the Australian Institute of Family Studies report on the family law system, launched for public discussion last week, show that the Family Court is grappling with custody arrangements for very young children, born into the most dysfunctional and often violent families.

The authors of the report, led by Melbourne academic Rae Kaspiew, found that parents who ended up in court tended to be younger than average couples, with the common age range for mothers between 25 and 34. Fully half had children under three and only 7 per cent had a child older than 12. The report found that “educational levels were lower than those found among parents who were together,” with one in three having failed to attain a Year 11 education. Half the women were not doing any paid work, and while 84 per cent of the fathers were in paid employment, the employment rate was lower than that found among parents who stay together. The study found extremely high levels of alcohol abuse, drug abuse, mental illness and gambling in families that ended up before the court, with half the mothers saying that one or more of these issues were present.