The Collapse of the British Family
Why we need a serious conversation about pro-family policy
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The British family is imploding. In recent decades, as the new elite’s political and cultural revolution swept through the country, Britain has become a world leader in the breakdown of family life —yet nobody wants to talk about it.
The sheer scale of the problem was underlined by a new study last week. It found that by the time British children turn fourteen years old, almost half of them —46%— are no longer living with both natural parents.
If you look at the longer-term trend the picture becomes even more striking. Among British children born in 1958, just 9% experienced family breakdown by the time they turned 16. Among a later generation, born in 1970, the figure was 21%. And among children born in the New Labour years, in 2001-02, it’s nearly five times higher —at 43%. Everybody will now know somebody who has experienced it.
As a result of these trends, lone-parent households —like the one I grew up in— have gone mainstream. Today, nearly one in four of all households —23%— are headed by a lone parent, which is much higher than the 13% average in Europe.
As one major review of the latest evidence notes:
“A notable hallmark of British families is their greater fragility and complexity as compared with families in other western European countries. More children are born into lone mother families and there are higher rates of parental separation”.
Britain is now also giving Europe a masterclass in what is know as "non-partnered motherhood” —namely, women who give birth with no partner at all.
In the rest of Europe, this accounts for about 5% of mothers, or less. But in Britain, like America, the figure is more than three times higher —at 16%. A growing number of children have simply never experienced life with two parents.
A growing number of children, meanwhile, are being raised by cohabitating, unmarried parents. Between 1971 and 2019, the percentage of births which took place outside of marriage surged from 8% to 48% —meaning nearly half of all births today take place in cohabitating couples, or to parents who are already living apart.
Yet while cohabitating and unmarried parents have become more common they are also consistently more likely than their married counterparts to break-up.
One study which tracked British parents over time using the Millennium Cohort Study found that 60% of parents who never married before their child was born ended up splitting up compared to only 21% who married. Of all natural parents who remain together when their child turns fourteen, 84% are married.
While many of these facts are routinely downplayed by a ruling class which views the family and marriage as unfashionable or outdated institutions, so too are the enormous differences in rates of family breakdown among racial and ethnic groups.
It’s much easier in today’s culture to lazily blame all disparities among groups on dubious concepts like ‘structural racism’ than look at what is actually happening within the family. Because when you do look the results are striking.
British Black Caribbean and British Black African families are far more likely than others to be headed by a lone parent. While only 22% of white British families are headed by a lone-parent, this doubles to 44% among British Black Africans and then rockets to 57% among British Black Caribbeans.
Tentative analysis of data from the Office for National Statistics suggests more than 60% of British Black Caribbean children are now raised in single-parent households while other data shows British Black Caribbean, British Black African and British mixed-race mothers are, by far, the most likely to give birth outside of a partnership.
The liberal progressive new elite who dominate the institutions routinely downplay or ignore these facts. Discussing the importance of family to national life, stressing the need for our governments to develop far more assertive pro-family policies, or reshaping our prevailing culture around pro-family norms, have all become taboo.
Which is why the new elite is deeply hypocritical. While people in the elite graduate class are —by far— the most likely to get married, have children in marriage, and then stay married, they simultaneously downplay the importance of stable families, encourage others to lead “fluid”, “individual”, and “diverse” lives, and deride anybody who points to the importance of marriage and family as right-wing reactionaries who want to return to the 1950s.
The continual undermining of the family in our political and cultural life is another example of a “luxury belief” —ideas which are aggressively advocated by the new elite in order to acquire social status and prestige from other elites but which they do not adhere to themselves and impose enormous costs on others.
And the costs are enormous …
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