Ireland 1986-2006: 500% Increase in Divorce; 400% Increase in Cohabitation without Marriage

Cities much worse off than rural areas
Mon Sep 17, 2007 - 12:15 pm EST

By John-Henry Westen

  DUBLIN, September 17, 2007 ( - A new report from The Iona Institute based on a detailed analysis of Census 2006 - the first analysis of its kind published to date - reveals the full extent of changing family structure and marriage breakdown in Ireland.

The analysis shows marriage breakdown by age and region and includes colour-coded maps of major Irish cities illustrating this down to the electoral division level.

  According to the analysis, marriage breakdown has increased five-fold since 1986. Almost 200,000 adults have experienced marital breakdown. During the same period, the number of lone parent families is up 80 per cent and stands at 190,000.

  In the last ten years, cohabitation has risen four-fold to 121,000 couples, making it the fastest growing family form in Ireland today. The number of children living in non-marital family units has doubled since 1986 and now stands at 26 per cent, or more than one child in four.

  The study also found that married couples living in rural areas suffer much less marital breakdown than those in cities.  Socially deprived areas are also hit harder with marital breakdown.

  Commenting on the findings, Professor Patricia Casey, consultant psychiatrist at the Mater Hospital in Dublin, said: "This report confirms that marriage breakdown is becoming a serious problem in Ireland. Although the national breakdown rate is 13 per cent, this is not evenly distributed and affects cities and socially deprived areas in particular, much more heavily than the norm."

  The 45-49 year old age group is the one most affected by marriage breakdown. Its breakdown rate is 18.7 per cent. The rate is 18.2 per cent among 50-54 year olds, and among 40-44 year olds it is 16.1 per cent. The rate declines steeply among people aged 60 and up. Among 65-69 year olds it is 9.5 per cent.

  The analysis also shows that couples are delaying getting married. In 1986, 56 per cent of 25-29 year olds were married. By 2006 this had plunged to just 18.5 per cent.

  The full 24-page report is available here:

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