- The days of the nuclear family are all but over with
just one quarter of people thinking married couples make better parents
than unmarried ones.
- In addition, according to the latest survey of social
attitudes in the UK, only half the public now think couples need to wed
if they want to start a family, compared to 70% in 1989.
- Among 18 to 24-year-olds, the figures are even lower,
with barely one third of young people believing marriage should precede
- The findings are published today in the eighteenth annual
survey of British social attitudes from the National Centre for Social
Research, Britain's largest social research institute.
- The survey of more than 3000 people also found widespread
concern over Britain's record numbers of teenage mothers, a growing distrust
of politicians, fear of genetically modified foods, and massive opposition
to genetic testing by insurance companies.
- Internet users, far from being stereotyped geeky loners,
also emerge as more affluent, sociable and community-minded than average.
- Marriage, while still highly regarded as an ideal, is
increasingly being superseded by cohabitation.
- Two-thirds of people think it is a acceptable for a couple
to live together without being married, even if marriage is not the ultimate
goal, although there is confusion about the law.
- More than half falsely believe "common law marriage"
gives cohabiting couples the same rights as married ones, even though it
was abolished in 1753.
- The most likely age group to cohabit are 25 to 34-year-olds
(22% do it), and among past cohabitants 59% went on to marry their partner.
- Researcher Alison Park said: "Cohabitation is widely
accepted as a prelude to marriage and as an alternative, even where there
are children involved. There's a clear suggestion that values will continue
to shift in a more liberal direction."
- With the UK burdened by the highest rates of births to
teenage mothers in Western Europe, 62% think television and advertising
put teenagers under "too much pressure to have sex before they are
- In politics, Labour's welfare reforms - with the exception
of last year's 75p increase in pensions - are proving broadly popular,
as is the Conservatives' sceptical stand on greater European integration.
- After all parties focused on benefit fraud, 77% of people
now think large numbers of their peers are making false benefit claims.
- Never bountiful, public trust in politicians continues
to fall, with just 16% confident a British government would put country
above party, down from 39% in 1974.
- Devolution, touted as an antidote to voter apathy, has
so far failed to overcome this mistrust, but nor has it created division
- The West Lothian question no longer appears to trouble
the public either. Both in Scotland and England (53% and 64%), most people
believe Scottish MPS should not be allowed to vote on matters relating
only to England.
- The social survey also discovered internet users were
more clubbable than those left off-line. Around 30% belonged to a community
group compared with less than a quarter of non-users.
- On health, while gene therapy is endorsed by the vast
majority for treating heart disease and cancer, almost four in five oppose
insurance companies using genetic tests to decide who to insure.
- Rev Jim Cowie, convener of the Church of Scotland's board
of social responsibility, said: "The popular view is that marriage
does not make much difference, but other surveys show it does, both to
the quality of life for couples and the well-being and success of children."
- Peter Kearney, spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland,
said recent figures showed marriages rising and divorce rates falling north
of the border.