Study shows changing family trends
Married couples with one child are up to 30pc more likely to split than those with a bigger family or no children at all, a groundbreaking new study showed.
Break-ups soared in the 1990s but have now levelled off, with the rate low internationally, the research on family trends over 20 years found.
And the 1997 introduction of divorce did not lead to a surge in separation cases despite predictions from religious groups it would decimate families.
The Economic and Social Research Institute study also found there were more than 10,000 lone fathers - only one in eight lives with their children.
Mary Hanafin, Social and Family Affairs Minister, said the report would help drive Government policy. "This project is unique as it is the first time researchers have been granted access to the full 2006 CSO Census file and so allows a more in-depth study of family life," Ms Hanafin said.
"The report will be a valuable resource for policy makers and those interested in how families are developing and changing in Ireland."
Between 1986 and 2006 the total number of people whose marriages broke down jumped five-fold, from 40,000 in 1986 to just under 200,000 in 2006. Non-nationals accounted for 18pc of the 2006 figure.
The study - Family Figures: Family Dynamics And Family Types In Ireland, 1986-2006 - also found twice as many 25-year-olds were living together than married. Catholic or Church of Ireland women are more likely to be a never-married lone parent.
And the least well-off are more inclined to be lone parents, to marry young, experience marital breakdown, and have large families, prompting the ESRI to urge that support for those on low-incomes be preserved despite cutbacks.
The research marks the most detailed study of family trends ever undertaken and is divided into four sections dealing with couples, marital breakdown, fertility and lone parents.