In Britain today, both the public and politicians agree that families matter. Four out of five people say that ‘my family are more important to me than my friends’, and families currently ride high on the policy agendas of both the Labour2 and the Conservative Parties. One thing that unites everyone in Britain is the need for parents to take more responsibility for their children: 64% of us strongly agree this matters.
Yet ‘the family’, both in public opinion and as a policy area, is a source of persistent contradictions and trade-offs. Privately, families must balance the competing interests of parents, children and other dependants within the household such as elderly relatives. The traditional single male breadwinner family is declining and the growth of single-parent families and other new kinds of family present many new challenges for government policy on welfare, work-life balance and in many other areas.
This report aims to be a starting point for a debate on policy, charting the changing nature of the family, and what that means for parents, children and our wider society. Drawing on the breadth of the latest new research undertaken by Ipsos MORI with Policy Exchange, and other existing research, we explore the changing shape of families in Britain today, the impact of such changes on society, public opinion on the role of families and the role for government. We highlight the key opportunities for policymakers in light of the challenges suggested by the current demographic, social and attitudinal terrain, and what the public thinks of these options.