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Thursday, 28th April 2011

UK: History and Family: Setting the Records Straight

Source: Centre for Social Justice (UK)

From the Executive Summary:

This publication challenges the assertion that informal childbearing and partnership formation (births outside marriage and cohabitation) have prevailed during much of the last two centuries, and argues that these features of the family are cause for concern as contributors to socioeconomic inequality.The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) has spent the last five years analysing the root causes of poverty and our well-evidenced analysis implicates family breakdown as a key driver of disadvantage. As a nation we are experiencing unprecedented levels of family breakdown with an estimated 48 per cent of all children born today not growing up with both their parents. The move away from marriage as the socially recognised context for bearing and raising children is heavily implicated in our high break-up rates.

A familiar response to this is that the current prevalence of non-marital families is nothing new. Thus, a recent British Academy pamphlet by Professor Pat Thane, Happy families? argues that we are not in uncharted and therefore potentially dangerous territory with regard to family trends. It is claimed that there were high rates of ‘illegitimacy’ and cohabitation in the first half of the twentieth century (and indeed in earlier centuries) and that the 1950s and 1960s were in fact an exception to this general trend.

However, this is factually incorrect, even in terms of the statistical information presented in the pamphlet. The 1950s were by no means out of step with earlier general trends: the proportion of births outside marriage in the late eighteenth century – which, at around five per cent, is described as ‘high’ – was almost identical to that in the 1950s, which is described as ‘very low’. To put these figures in perspective, the most recent figures show that 45 per cent of all births now occur outside marriage.

+ Direct link to document (PDF; 314 KB)



Having begun his career in academic libraries, Adrian Janes has subsequently worked extensively in public libraries, chiefly in enquiry work as an Information Services librarian. In this role he has had particular responsibility for information from both the UK Government and the European Union. He wrote a detailed report on sources for the latter which was published by FreePint in 2007, and has contributed articles to FreePint and ResourceShelf. He is involved in training in information literacy and the use of online reference resources.

A Contributing Editor to DocuTicker, he also write reviews for Pennyblackmusic.

More articles by Adrian Janes »

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