Defining the family
Is it time to redefine the family? Some commentators certainly think so. There is a great reluctance nowadays, especially amongst politicians and opinion-formers, to depict the family as a married couple with children. It is easy to assume that this unit is no longer the norm, and that families come in so many shapes and sizes that all our traditional assumptions are now redundant. So this seems a good opportunity to examine the facts about family life at the beginning of the 21st century, and consider whether a reassessment is needed. We all know that over the last thirty years there have indeed been significant statistical changes. In 1971 fewer than 10% of babies in the UK were born outside marriage; now the figure is more than 40%. The percentage of children living in lone parent households has also increased four-fold, and divorce rates have doubled. So it is undoubtedly true that couples nowadays are less likely to stay together, and children are much more likely to have to cope with their parents' separation and divorce, than in the 1970s. A new era?
But have we really moved into a new era, where family breakdown is so widespread that all we can do is learn to accept its consequences, and try to mitigate the pain and suffering that result? A report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation earlier this year suggested that this might be the case, arguing that "we need to move on from categorising the children of divorced and separated parents as having an experience which is essentially different from that of other children. It is time to recognise that all children can be expected to undergo a number of transitions in their family circumstances." This rather implies that we can't do anything to stem the tide of family breakdown and we should therefore teach all children to expect change and insecurity - surely a counsel of despair.
Another 2004 report, this time from the Gulbenkian Foundation and called 'Rethinking Families,' also...
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