Women of Afro-Caribbean origins are four times as likely as white women to have children out of wedlock, researchers claim.
A three-year study by researchers at the Policy Studies Institute in London, involving data on more than 6,000 families, has revealed that single mothers who give birth outside marriage are more likely to come from lower socio-economic backgrounds, while divorced lone parents are more likely to be better educated than average.
But single parenthood is usually a temporary state - most marry within five years. The research also shows that the idea of young girls getting pregnant just to secure a council flat is a myth. Most single mothers did not plan to have a child and still saw the ideal as a nuclear family.
Karen Rowlingson, senior lecturer at Derby University and one of the researchers involved in the ESRC study, said she believed single woman who were unemployed or on low wages and became pregnant might see motherhood as quite an attractive option.
If the father was also on a low wage or benefits and was not able to fill the ideal breadwinning role being in a couple became less attractive. "Single women who are unemployed or on low wages who become pregnant may see becoming a mother as quite an attractive option. If the man is also on a low wage or benefits, being in a couple may be less attractive."
She adds that more educated women may feel more able to stand alone. The study found that those with O levels or above were more likely to divorce.
Single parenthood is often only temporary. Single mums marry on average three years after becoming lone parents.