The term "marital breakdown" covers divorce, separation and desertion as well as estrangement and the continuation of living together though without marital relations. The result is severe emotional stress in both spouses and in the children of the marriage. Divorce, desertion and separation may result in poverty and adjustment problems.
Marriage breakdown in the sense of estrangement and living together is not usually recorded, though it may be more extensive than the incidence of divorce and separation. Desertion, except where it is given as a reason for divorce, is also not usually recorded. The incidence of divorce is highest in industrialized and communist countries.
In 1996 it was recorded that in Japan there are about 24 divorces for every 100 marriages, in France there are 32 per 100, in the UK 42, and in the USA 55. The number of registered marriages in the UK dropped from 436,346 in 1974 to 375,410 in 1990 and was estimated to be continuing to drop at the rate of 7% per year. Divorces increased from 25,000 in 1961 to 153,386 in 1990, with nearly 50% of marriages ending in divorce in 1991. The number of births outside marriage rose from 54,000 in 1961 to 236,000 in 1991, whilst births inside marriage fell from 890,000 to 556,000.