17 Jul 2007

Family Relationships Struggling Reveals New Survey

17 July 2007

Family relationships appear to be under threat as parents across the UK struggle with the demands of work, raising concerns over how much time they can spend with their children, a new poll commissioned by The Children's Society highlights today.

From this survey of UK adults, 61% said that parents nowadays don’t get enough time to spend with their children while almost half of those questioned (48%) said that they had to put their career first even if this affected their family life. These results reflect the growing dilemmas over childcare British parents can feel when trying to juggle the many demands of modern life in a country that already puts in some of the longest working hours in Western Europe.

The survey, conducted by GfK NOP, is the second in a series called reflections on childhood commissioned by The Children’s Society as part of its Good Childhood Inquiry – the UK’s first independent national inquiry into childhood.

When adults were asked if a pre-school child was likely to suffer if his or her mother worked, almost half of all participants (48%) disagreed, but a significant number (37%) agreed. Two thirds (67%) of respondents said they didn’t believe that parents should stay together when they didn’t get along, even when there are children in the family.

Children contributing to The Good Childhood Inquiry* however, saw a happy home life as one in which they spent time together as a family. Although several submissions from children spoke of parents being too busy to spend time with them, saying:

‘When your parents are always arguing or have full time jobs they don’t spend any time with you. You feel lonely with nobody to talk to and all you can do is play on the computer or watch TV.’

Overwhelmingly, both the GfK NOP survey and the submissions to the inquiry identified love as the most important component for a happy childhood - 67% of adults polled and 70% of children’s submissions.

Bob Reitemeier, chief executive of The Children’s Society said: ‘Family is hugely important in the lives of all children yet modern society appears to be pulling them apart. Only by taking a closer look at how a child’s need for family can be met in the context of the 21st century, can we ensure a good childhood for all children. Without this fresh perspective and a better understanding of how to support families, we risk damaging the successful growth and development of future generations.’

The topic of family is the second of six key themes to be considered by The Children’s Society’s Good Childhood Inquiry. A summary of the evidence about family submitted to the inquiry by the public, adults and professionals can be downloaded from www.goodchildhood.org.uk.

Kathleen Kiernan, inquiry panel member and professor of social policy and demography, University of York said: ‘Family life is changing with rising rates of parental separation, more working parents and different parenting styles. We know these factors affect children's lives and that when children feel loved and secure they build up resilience to life's challenges. This gives us a context to debate the difficult experiences that some children face and learn from research about the impact of these changes on children and how they can they be moderated.’

Over the next twelve months the inquiry will hold meetings on the remaining themes of health, learning, lifestyle and values before publishing its final report in late 2008.

Notes to Editors:

Media Enquiries; For more information or to arrange interviews please contact: The Children’s Society’s Media Team, Tel: 0207 841 4422 Email: sxs@childsoc.org.uk, mobile: 07810 796508

* Good Childhood: what you told us about family, a summary of the family evidence submitted to The Good Childhood Inquiry can be downloaded from www.goodchildhood.org.uk
* GfK NOP conducted a total of 1,148 interviews with a representative sample of UK representatives aged 18 or over. A summary of the findings is available from The Children’s Society media office.
* The Good Childhood Inquiry – the UK’s first independent national inquiry into childhood – is managed by The Children’s Society. The inquiry’s final report and recommendations will be published in 2008.
* The Children's Society is driven by the belief that every child deserves a good childhood. It provides vital help and understanding for those forgotten children who face the greatest danger, discrimination or disadvantage; children who are unable to find the support they need anywhere else. Visit www.childrenssociety.org.uk