The breakdown of the family

It is not just divorce that has an impact. The Millennium Cohort Study found that cohabiting1 couples were more than twice as likely to split up as married couples, regardless of age, income or social background. Even the poorest 20 per cent of married couples are more stable than the richest 20 per cent of cohabiting couples, according to the 'Breakdown Britain' report. In 1971, 68 per cent of the population were married. By 2001 that had fallen to 54 per cent and it is projected to decline to 41 per cent in 2031. Indeed, the latest statistics on births within marriage reveal a transformation within British society.

In Chapter One, we saw how one in five babies is now born to a foreign mother (one in two in London). But beneath that bald figure lies a fascinating change. Immigrants now conform better than native Britons to what are usually thought of as traditional British values: far more children of immigrants are born within marriage than of native Britons. If immigrants are ignored, 2007 was the first year in recorded history in which more children were born outside than inside marriage in the UK. Britain leads the European lone-parent league by a long way. Fifteen per cent of all children in Britain are now born and brought up without a father. In 2005, nearly one in four dependent children in Britain - 3.2 million - was living in a lone-parent family.

Why does this matter? Whatever we might want to believe, the statistics show clearly that children from single-parent households are exponentially more likely than those in intact families to suffer deprivation2 and ill-health, to get into trouble at school, to suffer physical and sexual abuse, to drink, to take drugs, to commit crime, to contract3 sexually transmitted diseases, to become teenage parents - and, at the most basic level, to be poor as adults. Official statistics show that some 70 per cent of young criminal offenders come from lone-parent families. Children growing up in lone-parent families are twice as likely to suffer a mental disorder as those living with married parents. And the rising number of lone-parent families is one of the biggest reasons for housing shortages. Ninety-five per cent of lone-parent families receive benefits or tax credits, with 45 per cent claiming housing benefit4. Britain has the highest rates of benefits for single mothers and the highest percentage of lone-parent families in Europe. Cause and effect, perhaps?

Every year, over 47,000 girls under 18 fall pregnant, the highest number (per head of the population) in Western Europe: six times that of Holland, four times that of Italy and three times higher than in France. And, for good measure5, we also have the highest number of school-age abortions. Of girls aged under 16 - the age of consent - 13.8 per cent are now infected with chlamydia6. Even after they have been treated, 28 per cent become reinfected within 6 months and 20 per cent within a year. Even serious disease seems not to act as a warning against promiscuity7. Is it any wonder?

The notion that sex is just another form of entertainment is now so widespread, whether through gossipy media stories of which celebrity is shagging8 which other celebrity, or even through school where sex education and the emphasis on contraception carry with them the implication that having sex is fine so long as one takes care. The intended message might be that when children have sex they should use a condom, but the only part which seems to get through is the 'when children have sex' part.
606 words

From: Ten Days that Changed the Nation - The Making of Modern Britain by Stephen Pollard, pp. 209-11; Simon & Schuster, London, 2009

1. to cohabit - in nicht-ehelicher Lebensgemeinschaft leben
2. deprivation - Entbehrung, Mangel
3. to contract - sich anstecken
4. housing benefit - Wohngeld
5. for good measure - obendrein, als Zugabe
6. chlamydia - Chlamydien
7. promiscuity - sexuelle Freizügigkeit
8. to shag - (vulg.) für sexuelle Kontakte

1. What are the consequences when more children are born outside marriage than inside and when 15% of all British children grow up without a father?
2. What do you think are the reasons why most immigrant families aer married so that their children grow up in a family?
3. What does the text suggest as to the high number of teenage pregnancies and abortions in Britain?
4. Consult the Internet concerning the number of teenage pregnancies in Germany and compare them to the British situation. What do you think are the reasons for a possible difference?

amazon.de Ten Days That Changed the Nation: The Making of Modern Britain
Stephen Pollard

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