More people are living alone, more children are being raised by single parents and more grown-up children are living with their parents than ever before, according to the Office for National Statistics.
One expert said that the in-depth annual study was final confirmation that the nuclear family had become “a museum piece”.
The wide-ranging report also showed that Britain had become a nation of people who travel longer distances to work, take more foreign holidays and fill their homes with electrical gadgets.
The Social Trends report made clear, however, that the most radical changes had been to child-rearing and marriage.Its figures showed that 30 per cent of women under 30 had given birth by the age of 25, while 24 per cent had married: the first time that having children had become the first major milestone of adult life, ahead of marriage. This was in sharp contrast to their parents’ generation. In 1971 three-quarters of women were married by 25, and half had given birth. [...]
“The single-parent family carried all sorts of social and moral judgments back then [in 1971]. That is just not the case any more.
“The couple who do not get married is now socially acceptable in a way that it never was before.” [...]
“We now know that children suffer hugely if they don’t get the balance of two parents in their upbringing. Those with two parents are less likely to take drugs, more likely to do well at school, more likely to get jobs.”
The ONS figures also showed that a rise in the number of people going to university and a decade-long house price bubble had meant that 300,000 more people under the age of 34 lived at home than in 2001. In 2008, 29 per cent of men under the age of 34 lived at home with their parents, up from 27 per cent seven years earlier.
The ONS said the Divorce Reform Act of 1969, which made it easier to dissolve a marriage, was one of the main causes for the radical change in families.
Critics of the Government point out that the tax system has also been altered to the advantage of unmarried couples.
The last tax break for married couples, the married couples’ allowance, was abolished in 2000. State benefits, and especially Gordon Brown’s flagship tax credit system, pay more to single mothers than to two-parent families.
Patricia Morgan, the author of The War between the State and the Family, said: “There is discrimination on the one hand, but on the other there are major benefit incentives for a single woman to have children. It’s a mug’s game, getting married.” [...]
Read the full article at The Telegraph