A survey has found that parents with twins are more likely to end up divorced,broke and out of work,even though they are better off,older and more likely to be married than those who have their babies one at a time.
The research on the chaos caused by multiple births,tracked 18,500 families,and found that married couples were 17 per cent more likely to divorce if they had twins or triplets rather than several children with gaps in between.
The impact on family finances is even more pronounced. Two thirds of multiple-birth families said that they were significantly financially worse off after their babies were born compared with 40 per cent of other parents.
The researchers found that nine months after giving birth,mothers of twins and triplets were 20 percent less likely to have returned to work than mothers of single babies,the cost of childcare being largely to blame.
Among lower-income groups,the poorest quarter of families with multiple births lived off 181 pounds a week compared with 192 pounds among poor families with single-birth children.
Another significant finding was that 55 per cent of twins are born when there are already other children in the family. Researchers said most families want,and plan for,just two children.
The proportion of multiple births has soared as a result of IVF and women giving birth when they are older,according to the research. One in 65 births now results in twins or triplets compared with one in 100 in 1970.
Stephen McKay,Professor of Social Research at the University of Birmingham,conducted the research.
It was commissioned by Tamba,the Twins and Multiple Births Association,which said it showed that families with multiple births needed more help,such as a grant at the time of the birth to pay for extra equipment.
Professor McKay said he had not expected the impact of having twins or triplets to be so dramatic.
“One of the most surprising new findings is that twins start from quite a good situation with older parents who are married and better off than the average parents,” Times Online quoted him as saying.
“That should give them an advantage. But they are very quickly significant worse off,” he said.
At the time of the birth over 70 per cent of parents of twins are married and 83 percent of parents of triplets,far more than the 59 per cent of all other parents.
“We would expect quite a low divorce risk among families with twins,because they are older and better off,which are important protective factors against the risk of divorce,” McKay said.
“The risk of divorce tends to increase when families are under pressure,particularly financial pressure,and so the heightened risk of divorce reflects the problems that such families face,” he stated.
He also found that twin girls are more likely to get divorced,a possible result of finding it hard to form a strong bond with someone other than their twin.
Professor McKay said that the delay of the mother returning to work appeared also to be crucial.
“The cost of childcare and reluctance of other family members to take on the role of carer were both major factors. What we see is plans to go back to work very quickly going out the window,” he said.
Keith Reed,chief executive of Tamba,said that a few simple changes would make all the difference to these families.
“The main parties say they are committed to strong families,and helping mothers back to work,but many families with multiple births are in dire straits because successive governments have ignored their needs,” he said.