THE introduction of divorce here has not led to an explosion in cases coming before the courts, according to a major new report which outlines the changing face of Irish family structures.
In fact, evidence indicates that there has been no significant upward shift in marital breakdown as a result of the advent of divorce in 1997, nor has divorce taken over from formal and informal separation as the preferred means of legal resolution of marital breakdown.
Family Figures: Family Dynamics and Family Types in Ireland, 1986-2006 was published yesterday by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) and indicates that childbearing is typically left until women enter their 30s and cohabitation is a more popular than marriage until people reach their late 20s.
Previously unpublished data from the 2006 Census Research Microdata File shows that some men were possibly not being honest when they were filling in their Census forms regarding their marital status.
Of the women not living with a partner, 45,835 said they were separated, yet the figure for men not living with a partner who were separated was just 27,233.
Similarly, there was a considerable gap between the number of men who said they were divorced – 14,012 – and the number of women who said they were divorced, at 19,970.
The report looks at whether migration may be a factor, but says it is “more plausible explanation is that men are not being as honest in their answers to the marital status question on the Census form. Some men who are separated (and to a lesser degree divorced) instead classify themselves as single or married”.
The rate of remarriage was low, but men were more likely to have remarried.
According to the report, Ireland still has a low rate of marital breakdown by European standards. It finds that people in their 40s are at greater risk than those 10 or more years older. Marital breakdown is much more prevalent among lowersocioeconomic groups.
“There is one interesting exception: graduate women in their 50s (but not women in higher occupations) also have higher than average risk of marital breakdown. It is also more common among non-Irish nationals, non-Catholics (with the exception of Muslims) and those living in Dublin.”
While the majority of people who have experienced marital breakdown now live without a partner, of those who have a new partner, most cohabit.
According to the report: “Religion, nationality and ethnicity are strong determinants of partnership and of fertility.”
In many cases these factors can be more influential in family make-up than educational achievement and occupation.
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