Children from broken families have double the chances of developing serious behavioural problems, a new study has revealed.
Researchers who tracked nearly 13,500 children from birth to age seven found that kids living with a single parent or stepparents are twice as likely of developing emotional problems, poor behaviour and hyperactivity.
Separately, the study found almost a third of seven-year-olds are living without either their mother or father.
One in seven (15 per cent) who lived with stepparents and one in eight (12 per cent) from a single-parent family displayed serious behaviour problems, the report found.
Their emotional health and well-being was likely to be 'under considerable pressure', according to the Millennium Cohort Study, which is tracking children born in 2000.
However, just one in 17 living with both natural parents showed the same behavioural difficulties.
"Living apart from natural fathers can be associated with poverty and negative outcomes for children," the Daily Mail quoted co-author Lisa Calderwood of London's Institute of Education as saying.
For the study, mothers were asked to rate different aspects of their child's behaviour at age seven.
The questions covered hyperactivity, conduct, emotional problems, and difficulties getting on with other children, as well as positive behaviour.
Their answers were then converted into scores that enabled researchers to place each child in one of three categories - 'normal', 'borderline' or 'serious behaviour problems'.
The study showed that family set-up can have a strong influence on children's attitudes and well-being, and it was possible other factors also had an impact, including the school environment, quality of housing and the way parents talk to their children.