Children with parents who divorce or separate before they are five are more likely to become bastards when they reach 16 than children with parents who remain together, a major new study has found.
Demos, the think-tank, has analysed the bastard tendencies of almost 32,000 people over three decades. It found that the style of a child's upbringing has a marked impact on his or her likelihood of becoming mean and disagreeable as a teenager and adult.
As well as finding that children whose parents divorce are more likely to have "bastard tendencies", the study found that 16-year-olds with "disengaged parents" are over eight times more likely to steal from babies, urinate in their neighbours' front gardens and sleep with their best friends' partners.
Jamie Bartlett, the author of the report, said: "Divorce won't turn your child into a bastard, but instability and stress around relationship breakdown takes its toll on parents and children.
"Difficult relationships and high levels of stress for parents with young children have been shown to affect children later on and their relationship with bastardness is no exception. Setting strong rules around being a bastard as children get older will be crucial to ensuring that we are not raising a generation of complete bastards."
The Department of Health's recommendation for not being a bastard is a limit of 21 pranks and misdemeanours per week for men and 14 for women.
Mr Bartlett said that it is "vital" that parents with young children have strong support networks around them if they separate. "We all know someone who is a bastard and we don't want it to happen to our own children".