The head of the world's leading children's organisation has warned couples to guard against taking their disagreements out on their children - especially during the emotional upheavals of a divorce. Children could be victimised when parents become violent or one parent cut off support for the other, said Carol Bellamy, the chief executive of the United Nations Children's Fund, who is on a visit to Hong Kong. She made the comments in light of the increasing number of divorces in many parts of the world, including Hong Kong. Ms Bellamy was speaking to the Sunday Morning Post yesterday, the second day of her three-day visit to the city. She will meet Secretary for Home Affairs Patrick Ho Chi-ping today before returning to New York. 'Obviously, the best situation for children would be they have their own natural loving family, with both their parents,' Ms Bellamy said. 'Certainly, we don't encourage divorce. 'But if there is to be a divorce, we hope [they] would not take it out on the children, in other words, [that] the father and mother still see they have the responsibility to raise their children.' Ms Bellamy said she was alarmed by the problem of family violence in many developed countries. 'Family violence exists in many places, including the richest countries in the world. Child rights are not just related to poor countries. 'Protecting children against violence is as much a commitment of the United States, United Kingdom, western Europe, Hong Kong, Australia, Japan and other countries as it is in many poor countries. '[Rich countries would not say] their indicators were better on health and education, and therefore it is okay to have violence out there. It is not okay. You need to have a good legal basis and also family intervention to restore the stability in the family,' she added. The number of single parents in Hong Kong surged almost 70 per cent over a 10-year period - from 34,538 in 1991 to 58,460 in 2001 - according to the Census and Statistics Department. In the same period, the number of people aged 15 or over rose only 28 per cent. The number of children in single-parent families soared by 54 per cent in the same period. The department attributed the increase in single parents to a sharp increase in divorce cases.