Fractured Families: Why stability matters

June 2013

Executive Summary

Full Report

Fractured Families: Why stability matters revisits the state of family breakdown in Britain today, as first highlighted by the CSJ’s Breakdown Britain and Breakthrough Britain. The report finds that this problem has continued to worsen, with over 20,000 new lone-parent families forming every year. By the age of 15, almost half of all children in the UK are no longer living with both their parents. A million children have no meaningful contact with their fathers.

The report details the appalling toll family breakdown can take on children, families, and society at large – in economic cost, but also in human cost. Family instability and breakdown, this report demonstrates, is not just an emotional tragedy for children and families involved; it is also a driver of disadvantage and social exclusion. Strengthening and supporting families is therefore a matter of social justice.

In this report we also examine the causes. There is no simple causal story to be told, but rather a complex and interrelated web of factors, including: personal experience and intergenerational transmission; cultural changes; financial insecurity; barriers to stability in the tax and benefits system; barriers to continued involvement post-separation in law. We also look at the most vulnerable families, for whom family breakdown is not merely about the difficulties of raising children alone and the difference this tends to make, on average, for the children, but who face the most complex difficulties including domestic violence, children being taken into care, mental health problems, etc. We look at the Government’s Troubled Families Programme to assess its progress and look at what lessons must be learned going forward.

It is clear that overall, despite the Government’s family-focused rhetoric, the Government’s actions thus far have not measured up to its admission of the centrality of family. The report calls for urgent attention to family breakdown and action to attempt to reverse the trend where possible, and where breakdown may not be preventable, to mitigate its worst effects. The destructive reality of intense family breakdown must be confronted to ensure that children are given the life opportunities they deserve.