In comparison with most other places in the world, family identity is rather weak in Britain, especially in England. Of course, the family unit is still the basic living arrangement for most people. But in Britain this definitely means the nuclear family. There is little sense of extended family identity, except among some racial minorities. This is reflected in the size and composition of households. It is unusual for adults of different generations within the family to live together. The average number of people living in each household in Britain is lower than in most other European countries. The proportion of elderly people living alone is similarly high.
Significant family events such as weddings, births and funerals are not automatically accompanied by large gatherings of people. It is still common to appoint people to certain roles on such occasions, such as ‘best man’ at a wedding, or godmother and godfather when a child is born. But for most people these appointments are of sentimental significance only. They do not imply lifelong responsibility. In fact, family gatherings of any kind beyond the household unit are rare. For most people, they are confined to the Christmas period.
Even the stereotyped nuclear family of father, mother and children is becoming less common. Britain has a higher rate of divorce than anywhere else in Europe except Denmark and the proportion of children born outside marriage has risen dramatically and is also one of the highest (about a third of all births). However, these trends do not necessarily mean that the nuclear family is disappearing. Divorces have increased, but the majority of marriages in Britain (about 55%) do not break down. In addition, it is notable that about three-quarters of all births outside marriage are officially registered by both parents and more than half of the children concerned are born to parents who are living together at the time.
Date: 2015-01-02; view: 1941