Marriages, civil partnerships, divorces, births, adoptions

Note: We have based these facts on the latest available data. Some of the statistics (for example, marriages) are likely to change dramatically in 2020/21 because of the impact of Covid-19.

Marriages and civil partnerships

The number of marriages taking place in Scotland has decreased by around a third in the last 50 years.

There were 26,007 marriages in Scotland in 2019, 1,518 (6%) fewer than in 2018. Of these, 912 were same-sex marriages involving 347 male couples and 565 female couples. This is 67 (7%) fewer same-sex marriages than the previous year, continuing the decline since the peak in 2015.

The number of marriages is expected to drop dramatically for 2020 due to restrictions resulting from coronavirus pandemic.

There were 83 civil partnerships registered in Scotland in 2019, 18 more than in 2018.

National Records of Scotland. October 2020 update. Scotland's Population 2019. The Registrar General's Annual Review of Demographic Trends. [Accessed January 2021].

Average age at marriage

The average age at which people marry for the first time was 34.5 (men) and 32.9 (women) in 2019. This has increased from 24.3 (men) and 22.4 (women) in the mid-1970s.

National Records of Scotland. October 2020 update. Scotland's Population 2019. The Registrar General's Annual Review of Demographic Trends. [Accessed January 2021].

Average age of parents

On average, people are having children later in life, and having fewer children.

The average age of mothers rose from 26.0 in 1975 to 30.7 in 2019. The average age of fathers rose from 28.4 in 1975 to 33.2 in 2019. This excludes births registered in the mother’s name only, where the father’s details were not provided.

National Records of Scotland. October 2020 update. Scotland's Population 2019. The Registrar General's Annual Review of Demographic Trends. [Accessed January 2021].

Teenage pregnancies

The teenage pregnancy rate in Scotland is at its lowest level since reporting began in 1994. Rates fell from 34 per 1,000 women in 2014 to 30 per 1,000 women in 2018.

The absolute gap in teenage pregnancy rates between the most and least deprived areas is narrowing. While rates have generally reduced across all levels of deprivation in the last decade, rates in the most deprived areas have fallen more.

The proportion of teenage pregnancies that result in a termination is increasing. In 2018 the percentage of teenage pregnancies that ended in termination was the highest since reporting began (46%).

Teenage women from the most deprived areas are more likely to deliver than to terminate their pregnancy. In contrast, those from the least deprived areas are more likely to terminate than to deliver. This difference in outcome of pregnancy between the most and least deprived has not changed in recent years.

Public Health Scotland. August 2020. Teenage pregnancies: year of conception, ending 31 December 2018: A National Statistics publication for Scotland. Accessed January 2021].

Divorce and dissolutions

7,379 divorces were granted in Scotland in 2018-19. This is 7% higher than in 2017-18 (6,869).

In 2018-19, 61% of divorces granted used the simplified procedure.

35 divorces were granted to same-sex couples.

67 civil partnership dissolutions were granted in 2018-19, slightly down from 70 in 2017-18.

Most (93%) dissolutions granted in 2018-19 used the simplified procedure.

The number of divorces has been slowly decreasing from around 13,400 in 1985 to 7,300 in 2018. This decrease could be linked to the general downward trend in marriages in the same period.

Scottish Government. Civil justice statistics in Scotland: 2018-2019. Published 7 April 2020. [Accessed 12 January 2021].

Adoptions

There were 472 adoptions in 2019; one more than in 2018. This is around half the number recorded every year in the mid-1980s, and less than a quarter of the number recorded in the late 1960s.

Adoptions include step-parents adopting the children of their spouse or partner, and relatives adopting children of other family members, as well as people adopting children who are not related to them. The figures include small numbers of foreign adoptions registered in Scotland, and parental orders granted following a birth by a surrogate mother.

In 2019, 15% of children adopted were aged under two, and from age three onwards the numbers tend to fall with age. 7% were aged 15 or over.

National Records of Scotland. October 2020 update. Scotland's Population 2019. The Registrar General's Annual Review of Demographic Trends. [Accessed January 2021].

Adoptive parents

Of the 472 children adopted in 2019, 32% were adopted by a step-parent and 64% were adopted by non-relatives of the child.

National Records of Scotland. October 2020 update. Scotland's Population 2019. The Registrar General's Annual Review of Demographic Trends. [Accessed January 2021].

Scotland's Adoption Register

Scotland’s Adoption Register has been mandatory since 2016. At December 2020, 153 children and 153 adopters were on the register.

The most recent annual report (1 April 2018 to 31 March 2019) states that 100 children were matched during the year – the highest annual total to date.

Of the 173 children referred in that year, 65% were boys. This continued the pattern established in previous years of more boys than girls being referred (64% boys in 2017-18).

The majority of children referred were aged between 0 and four. 30% of referrals were for children to be placed with their brothers or sisters; almost 15% lower than the previous year (44%).

Not all children on the register are adopted. Some children wait longer, or no match is found. These children tend to be older (over five), part of a sibling group, or have significant developmental difficulties. Legal uncertainty about the adoption plan and the requirement to have high levels of contact also appear to be significant barriers to adoption for some children.

Younger children are matched in higher numbers but the average time taken to achieve a match is from six to 12 months across all ages.

Of the 152 adopters referred in 2018/19, 13% were single women; 10% were same-sex couples; and 71% were mixed-sex couples.

Scotland’s Adoption Register Annual Report, 2018 to 2019. [Accessed January 2021].

www.scotlandsadoptionregister.org.uk