Families' future 'looks brighter'

5 Nov 2007
BBC News

Three-quarters of people in Britain are optimistic about the future for their families, a BBC poll suggests.

Despite dire political warnings about family breakdown, that figure is 24% higher than when the same question was asked in 1964.

And of 1,001 adults surveyed, 95% said their families were close - a rise of 4% since 1999.

However, 70% of people still believe family life was more successful in their parents' generation.

And asked what lifestyle they would prefer, 7% more people would like to live alone today than in 1999.

Despite this, Tory leader David Cameron has made promoting marriage a key political aim.

"Families matter because almost every social problem that we face comes down to family stability," he has said.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has insisted he supports "all children and all families", rather than backing the institution of marriage itself.

The BBC poll is part of a special series on the modern British family.

The overwhelming majority of those quizzed - 96% - said family life was important to them, and more than nine in 10 said they were very or fairly happy with their family life.

The survey also found:

- More than half of people eat a meal with their immediate family every day.

- More than a third of people say the parent they are emotionally closest to lives within 10 miles of them.

- Just under three quarters say they feel happiest around their families. This compares to just 17% who say they are happiest around friends.

Challenges of time and distance appear to have affected the modern family, with an average of 81.4 miles separating respondents from their parents.

This figure almost doubles to 158.6 miles among those living in London.

On average, non-white respondents also lived significantly further from their parents than white respondents.


- Almost a quarter of people see the parent they are emotionally closest to every day, but 45% say they see them once a week or less.

- Almost half never use the internet to contact their families, while nearly a third use it at least once a week.

- And 17% say they have family members whom they no longer speak to.

Perhaps surprisingly, more women in the 1950s said their husbands did not spend enough time at home than today.

Meanwhile, in 1951, 90% of people thought their mother had done her best for them when they were children. Today, that figure is 94%.

The increase for fathers was from 80% in the 1950s to 86% now.

The poll was carried out by ICM between 18 and 21 October.


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