Drivers for family life in the 21st Century

As an institution the family has constantly evolved, shaped and adapted to social changes, and although families have much in common, there is no longer such a thing as a typical family in 21st Century Britain. I have been exploring these issues whilst writing the next in our series of ‘Future Focus’ guides on demographic changes. During my research I came across this useful report 'Families in Britain: an evidence paper' (PDF 1.976 KB) by the Cabinet Office which provides an excellent overview of how and why families have changed in recent decades and the implications of those changes for children, adults and society. The report outlines the current evidence and demographic trends affecting how families are evolving in the UK and identifies the key drivers behind changes to social norms, attitudes, family law, contraception and the expansion of female education and employment. The final chapter focuses on the future and highlights some key challenges for families based on demographic predictions, changes in behaviour and attitudes, raising some of the legal and moral questions that the government, society and the VCS are likely to have to tackle in the future.

Family and household structures are becoming more diverse with co-habitation, civil partnerships, lone parents, gay adoption all becoming increasingly common types of family units. Single person households are rapidly increasing too due to rising divorce rates, women outliving men and the growth of young professionals living alone. Increased personal and social mobility has also meant it is less likely that generations of the same family will live in the same geographical area with exceptions amongst some ethnic minority communities. This has led to individuals increasingly relying on their friends for support in the absence of family, particularly young people. (See family networks). Changing family structures can impact across all areas of the VCS from the levels of support organisations need to provide as long-established support structures evolve, to ensuring organisational working practices and policies are more flexible and reflect the needs and caring responsibilities of all employees and beneficiaries. Look out for the next 'Future Focus' guide on this topic in March which explores the impact of these demographic changes on the VCS and suggests ways in which your organisation can respond.

Download 'Families in Britain: an evidence paper' (PDF 1.976 KB)

Last updated at 15:08 Mon 18/May/09.
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