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When my sons, Jacob and Isaac, were just 3 and 1, my husband and I separated.

As a child of a divorce, I'd always sworn that I'd never put my kids through that -- yet as it turned out, living paycheck to paycheck and trying to do our own growing up while raising a family proved to be too great a strain on our marriage: It bent, cracked, and finally broke.

Slowly, my sense that I had a contagious disease lifted, and I found myself expanding my definition of what makes a family.

Hook up with grannies for sex - Single parent families and dating

Kayleigh Watson spent several months trying to have a baby and at the age of 17 gave birth to Sarah. Now 21 and living on benefits in a council house, Kayleigh, from Newcastle, said: 'People always seem to imagine that teenage pregnancies must be disastrous accidents.

'It might shock some people, but by the time I was 16, I wanted a baby of my own so much that I was prepared to be a single mum.'People might say "Oh, she just had a baby to get a house", but I never even thought about getting benefits.' The father of Kayleigh's children, David, still lives nearby and helps look after his daughters.

Initially, Kayleigh's mother and grandmother were devastated to learn of the first pregnancy. She 'married for life' at the age of 20 but her marriage fell apart in the 1980s and she looked after her daughter alone.

'Having known the heartache of single parenthood, it was the last thing I wanted for my own daughter,' she said.

They follow a report by Mr Dench last week which showed that 57 per cent of single parents have never lived with a male partner and so had made lone motherhood a lifestyle choice.

One in four families is now headed by a single mother.

Despite the new evidence that the majority of single mothers have chosen that status rather than being plunged into it by divorce, separation or widowhood, Labour's Deputy Leader Harriet Harman said yesterday that it would be cruel to bring in tax breaks for married couples.

She added: 'But it does send - and I think this is why it's cruel - because it sends a very clear message to children in families where the parents are divorced.

Gary Neuman, Parents advisor and author of Helping Your Child Cope with Divorce the Sandcastles Way.

When my divorce was new, talking with my ex was painful.

Great grandmother Jane Hutchinson and her daughter Pauline (pictured top left with Kayleigh and baby Sarah) were both lone parents through unhappy circumstance.

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