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Young Brits no longer regard marriage as 'best relationship'

Young Britons no longer regard marriage as the best form of relationship, according to a survey.

sex and relationships Updated: Jan 29, 2009 13:51 IST

Young Britons no longer regard marriage as the best form of relationship, according to a survey.

The survey, the largest of public attitudes in the country, showed that most young adults did not share the views of their parents' generation on the importance of marrying a long-term partner, or the role of women in the household.

The annual British Social Attitudes report showed that fewer than 40 per cent adults, aged between 18 and 34, believed marriage to be the best kind of relationship, compared with more than 80 per cent pensioners.

The report further states that younger adults were twice as likely as over-65s to believe that mothers should get a full-time job as soon as their children start school.

Very few thought that a home and children were what women really wanted.

The survey of 4,000 people came just days after a report by Government statisticians suggested that married couples would be in the minority by next year, as increasing numbers of people chose to live together out of wedlock.

The latest findings by the National Centre for Social Research reinforce changing social trends highlighted by last year''s study, which found one in three believing that homosexual men were just as capable of being good parents as a man and a woman.

"Since the middle of the last century, attitudes in Britain towards parents and parenthood have changed a great deal,” the Telegraph quoted Geoff Dench, a Visiting Fellow at Greenwich University and one of the authors of the British Social Attitudes study, as saying.

"Parents used to be regarded as central to society. Becoming a good citizen was seen as assisted by parenthood and by the experience of taking responsibility for others that this entailed. But it is different now," he added.

He said that there was a time when a "sexual division of labour" existed in Britain, with women charged with bringing up children while men earned a wage, and domestic stability was brought about through marriage.

"Parenthood gave people a valued place in society which may not exist today," he said.

According to him, this change came about as a result of Labour's social reforms since the 1960s, which have tried to modernise the country by promoting individual freedom and "liberating" people from traditional family structures.

Dench said that as part of this revolution, welfare payments that rewarded traditional families were abolished, which is why the generation that grew up in the 1980s, "when relatively few wholly traditional families remained in Britain," shared a sense that "conventional family life is a thing of the past".

First Published: Jan 29, 2009 13:49 IST