Children from married parents have a higher self-esteem than those whose parents are not married, new research has suggested.
The Marriage Foundation argued that it was "not moralistic or judgemental to say marriage works best for families – it is a statement of fact". Teenagers whose parents are in stable cohabiting relationships are less secure than those from married households, the study found.
The study was based on more than 3,800 interviews with teenagers and claims that it is the first evidence to show children's life chances are influenced by whether their parents are married or not.
The data showed that although generally boys had higher self-esteem than girls, both sexes were comparatively better if there parents were married than if they were cohabiting.
Sir Paul Coleridge, a former High Court family judge who set up the think tank, said the research contradicted David Cameron's idea that "strong families were critical" for children, according to the Telegraph.
"It is not 'strong families' that make the difference but 'strong marriages'," said Coleridge.
"Almost eight out of ten married parents stay together until their child's fifteenth birthday compared to three out of ten unmarried parents.
"Our study adds a whole new facet to this evidence. Being married not only influences the chances of families staying together. It also influences the well-being of their children."
He said: "Marriage matters because it is the most important predictor of a child's future life chances.
"Not only is a married couple more likely to save their child from undergoing the trauma of family breakdown, we now have evidence that parent's public declaration of commitment to each other significantly alters a child's self-perception and self-esteem."
He concluded: "The trend away from marriage beginning in the 1980s has coincided with a meteoric rise in family breakdown.
"Unless the Government gets serious about tackling this epidemic now, more and more children will see their lives torn apart."