Living together is just as good as being married, even when it comes to bringing up children, British people now believe.
Fewer than a fifth of people think there is much difference between being married or living together and more than half (53 per cent) say that weddings are more about celebration than life-long commitment.
A comprehensive study of public opinion found that only 28 per cent think married couples make better parents than unmarried pairs and there is broad support for step-families, who are widely seen to be doing a good job. More than three quarters of the public believe that a mother and a stepfather could bring up a child just as well as two biological parents.
The research also discovered that most people think divorce is a normal part of life, with two thirds saying that it can be “a positive step towards a new life”. Even when children are involved divorce is no longer seen as a disaster, with 78 per cent of the public saying the end of a marriage in itself does not harm children, although conflict between parents does.