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According to the ONS analysis of data from its monthly Labour Force Survey of 60,000 households, 3.8million children live with only one of their biological parents because they have a lone mother or their father or mother has left home.There are 2.7million who live with a single mother and 200,000 with a lone father.

Their numbers have grown by 600,000 since 1999, the ONS said.

The increase in children of broken homes came during the years when the Labour government maintained that all family types are equally good for children and the benefit system was re-shaped to reward single parents and penalise couples.

According to projections by the Department for Education, the number at nursery and primary schools is predicted to soar to 4,526,000 by 2018 – the biggest total for four decades.

This is a 13.5 per cent increase on the current number – 3,986,000.

The finding suggests that women giving birth later in life – often after pursuing careers or working to pay a mortgage during the traditional childbearing years – are less worried about the formal nature of their relationship with the father.