BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Talking Point  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
Forum
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
Friday, 17 October, 2003, 08:03 GMT 09:03 UK
Is the traditional family dead?
All over the world, family life is changing shape as we alter the way we live and work.

Joining Diana Madill to discuss the family was the University of Leeds sociologist, Dr Sasha Rose Neil.

Click below to watch Talking Point On Air

Read and hear a reflection of your comments during the programme

Read what you said before we went ON AIR

Read what you have said since the programme Have your say

Your comments since the programme:

Family life may have changed but family values remain as strong today as they ever were. If you want evidence go to prison, as I do, and see the number of lives ruined because of broken families. We all need the loving support of both our immediate and extended families. Let us not pretend otherwise.
David Brougham,

Long live the family! If you were a child and could choose whether a divorce takes place, you would honestly say that you would prefer both parents at home and living in harmony. Childhood is so special and fragile; it can never be relived. When a family is broken up, each member attempts to justify the new situation. We do not know what we had until it is gone, shattered forever. Our childhood moulds us into who we become as adults. Why are we so selfish in the quest for personal happiness? What more could one ask for than the love and respect of your child?
Christina Tait, England

The family is ingrained in human beings. Materialistic people give alternatives for the biological family, but these relationships are too often temporary, and fall apart when things get rough. As a Robert Frost poem said: "Home is where, when you go there, they have to take you in."
David Rivera, USA

Somehow, the image of mother and father are important. Somewhere, a child needs to get something from a father and something from a mother ... and it doesn't have to be in a "traditional" family set-up.
John Rebstock, USA

No. The vision of family and its role changes as the entire discipline of sociology progresses from century to century. The notion "traditional family" can be flexible. A pre-historic tribe was a big family itself, for example. If what is questioned here is the classic Victorian family, it has certainly changed, but it is not dead. Simply, the obligations of each member toward the family are not taken as seriously, as society becomes more liberal.
Andrej, Russia

'Girls must do the housework. Boys must cut the lawn.' This kind of thinking is all so silly, and it does nothing but put unnecessary constraints on people and families. My parents raised eight children, and believe me, all of us - boys and girls - knew how to change a diaper and paint a house.
Don Munro, USA

In this culture, in urban life, the concept of traditional family is a hindering experience. Children are basically worthless parasites, who take a lot of time and money, which most of us are in short supply of. At least those of us living in Silicon Valley, or other insanely high rent areas. Marriage has legal drawbacks, too. You're legally responsible for your spouse's financial mistakes, amongst other things. Thanks, but no thanks. I'll stick to my contrived family of my cat and my lover.
Morgan O'Conner, USA

Perhaps we need to provide a tighter set of rules by which to live.

Brian McIntosh, Scotland (UK)
Family values are not dead. They are merely changing. As long as humans produce offspring there will be family values, as families of some form be they single, double or perhaps even multiple parented will exist. What we need to do is look quite seriously at the concepts 'good' and 'bad'. What do we mean by these terms? How do we define a set of family values as being either 'good' or 'bad'? Should we be seeking to apply one set of values to everybody (nationally or even internationally)?
Perhaps we need to provide a tighter set of rules by which to live (e.g. religious texts) but I cannot see such a solution working - once people have tasted (intellectual & moral) freedom they will probably no longer be willing to return to the shackles of dogma.
Brian McIntosh, Scotland (UK)

The "family" is no longer a viable concept. If a man is unfortunate enough to father a child, he will usually suffer divorce, loss of home, loss of companionship, loss of children - and to add insult to injury, the government will steal a large portion of his income in the form of "child support". Face it, guys - you're better off alone.
Aldis Ozols, Australia

I now believe that society's expectations of marriage need to adapt to the greater individualism rather than fighting current changes in culture.

Paul Lethbridge, Germany
I was married for 7 years and have two children, the restrictions and expectations of married life, eventually took there toll and we separated. My eldest daughter of 8, openly told a friend that she was happier with the current situation than the last years, my wife and I lived together.
I now believe that society's expectations of marriage need to adapt to the greater individualism rather than fighting current changes in culture. Married couples should allow themselves more freedom and trust and spend time apart to express themselves occasionally.
Paul Lethbridge, Germany

Families were established by biology. We must care for our offspring which requires the ability to create offspring. If a lesbian and a gay man were shipwrecked, eventually they would have children. Think about it.
M. D. Haddock, USA

As a first generation Indian living in Australia, it is interesting to compare the Australian and Indian attitudes to family. Simply put, while feminism and the "emancipation" of women can be blamed for the current situation to a large extent, the point is that the cult of individualism is what is driving the change.
Everyone in a western family appears to look after themselves first and the concept of sacrifice for the sake of one's spouse or children is non-existent! Again, the loosening of social strictures and the waning influence of religion has led to a situation where anything goes and there is no more any right way of doing things.
Bala Chettur, Australia

Marriage, Family values are jargon from society. And now that society is changing, the so called traditional family values may be dead, but the family values are not.
Srimal, US

Dr Sasha Rose Neil stated that there was no evidence that children raised in single parent or homosexual families were any worse off than those in traditional families yet this cannot be backed up since these phenomenon are recent so we really cannot comment on the long term impact on children and society.
Crucially as a family doctor I devote a lot of time to people who are the fallout of these families suffering from depression, social isolation, childhood behavioural disorders and neglect of the elderly. Unfortunately it seems that increasing individualism and materialism in Western society has abrogated the responsibility of the victims to the state and in particular the health and social services. We are already under enough pressure without these problems.
Dr.Adnan Siddiqui, UK

Here in Vermont, where I live, the legislature is currently debating whether to extend the rights of married people to same-sex couples. We are hearing a great deal of the opinions being expressed on this site. One vital link seems to be missing however. Those who say that society is suffering because mothers are working never seem to draw the obvious conclusion: If a mother's work is of such high value to society (not just to her family), then society ought to reward her financially for doing it. Of course, there would then have to be some "quality control" to make sure society wasn't being cheated. If anyone has an answer to this dilemma, I'd like to see it.
Roger Cooke, USA

Islam considers marriage a very serious commitment, and has prescribed certain measures to make the marital bond as permanent as humanly possible. The parties must strive to meet the conditions of proper age, general compatibility, reasonable dowry, good will, free consent, unselfish guardianship, and judicious discretion. When they enter into a marital contract, the intention must be clear to make the bond permanent and free of all casual and temporary designations. Thus, trial marriages, term marriages, and all marriages that appear experimental, casual, or temporary are forbidden. However, to insist on the permanent character of marriage does not mean that the marital contract is absolutely indissoluble. Marriage in Islam is something unique and possessing very special features of both a sacramental and a contractual nature. The Islamic course is one of equitable and realistic moderation. But is it does not work well for any valid reason, it may be terminated in kindness and honour, with equity and peace.
Mukhtar Ahmed, USA

Grandchildren very quickly think it's cool to log on to grandma, so you don't have to rely on tension-filled family conventions and obligatory holiday visits.

Catherine Logan, Mabu'im, Israel
I am 64 years old and have had two marriages, two divorces, and two children, and a grandchild, and I have seen a lot of changes in relationships. No there won't be any easy transition. And the transition stage is always marked by pain, confusion and sometimes loss of life. But in my own life, I credit the extremely close relationship between myself and a previously estranged daughter to the advent of the internet. We are in constant and close contact, although I moved away from the US over 20 years ago and my daughter stayed there. I recommend to any of you other grandmothers to learn to use the internet. It is the salvation of relationships, and the added bonus is that grandchildren very quickly think it's cool to log on to grandma, so you don't have to rely on tension-filled family conventions and obligatory holiday visits to see your grandchildren. The internet puts you one on one, and the new chat rooms allow you even to see face to face while you are talking. You don't have to be a computer wizz to learn how to use the internet. And, believe me, there is nothing cold or impersonal about chatting through the internet. The intimacy of such contacts are much closer than conversing across the dining room table.
Catherine Logan, Mabu'im, Israel

Your 'expert' or guest on the programme today is talking with such an authority on the subject that one would think she has everything worked out about the ills and remedy for society. For someone with an ounce of common sense to suggest that there is not a crisis in society due to the breakdown of the traditional family is talking rhetoric or dogma. You do have a lot of dogma from 'right on' trendy feminist in the west. The unfortunate thing is that the BBC world service whose audience is a world audience gets only one studio guest to defend and promote a view that has contributed greatly to the problems that western society faces today. With the global village eastern countries are copying these failed trends.
skna, Malaysia

I see the shape of families changing around me in Australia. 'Family' for me is not a husband and some children but rather a woman partner who I see as my family. We do not have children although many other women and men in same sex relationships do. What we do have is a fleet of animals of all varieties and shapes. My partner and my animals are very special to me. There are many gay men and lesbian women who probably see family very differently than many of your listeners. Some might even say that we do not have a family. I would disagree with them.
Debbie Hamilton, Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia

Sad say but most of the western world have adopted the tragic lifestyles of the U.S.A. The case of the 6 year old Cuban boy in Miami is a classical example of how greatly family values have eroded in this hemisphere. Now the U.S. needs to wake up... It's simply a case of kidnapping. And it comes about because we've lost all sense of true family values.
Devon Dickson, Antigua

In your introduction I did not hear you give any statistics about England's out-of-wedlock birth rate. Doesn't England have the highest out-of-wedlock in Europe?
Xavier Rayford, US Air Force, stationed in England currently on temporary duty in Turkey

Without new technology I would not be in Australia whilst my family is in the UK, as it is easy to keep in touch via The Internet. I guess, 100 years ago people wouldn't consider moving 50 miles, let alone 5000 miles away from their families.
Chris Wells in Melbourne, Australia

On the question of freedom of a woman in the small nuclear family...well, my mother is a very independent woman, of course, but then she had this enormous struggle all her life to bring me up alone & work at the same time. Mama could have had her freedom, which she could have had in an understanding large family too...but the point is she did not find the time or energy to be able to what she wanted to...
Anindita

A large number of marriages are based on the pathological dependency between the partners.

Ranko Pinter, Cambridge, UK
The stability of a marriage is no indication of its health. Indeed, a large number of marriages are based on the pathological dependency between the partners (where no force on Earth could separate them), which is not only unhelpful but positively harmful environment for bringing up the children.
The current situation reflects the global move towards the honesty, largely driven by the emancipation of women who do not have to put up with abusive and loveless relationship. It the environment in which the myth of romantic love, where the dreadful confusion of love (act of will) and falling in love (act of hormones and invariably temporary) that has caused untold grief for generations, has finally being exploded.
Ranko Pinter, Cambridge, UK

As a teacher of primary children in Australia over the last 35 years I have seen children from both functional and dysfunctional families and by far the majority of poor learners come from one-parent families. Up to three quarters of the children in class sometimes have no stable relationship with a male figure since birth. The result upon boys and their attitude to learning and self-responsibility can be devastating. They look for stability through the peer group and perpetuate the slavish role-modelling of their anti-social young heroes. It is often obvious that mothers secretly admire boy children who are truculent, anti-learning and obnoxious. Without men in the picture who have authority within the family as well as responsibility boys are going to do what comes naturally until they find their own limits and that is often far too late and after much damage has been done to society.
Ron Sprott, Australia

Return to the top of the page


Your comments during the programme:

Feminism and women who say "I'm not a feminist, but..." have brought about huge changes in the family. Children grow up happiest with people who love them. It's arguable whether it's better to be stuck with parents who hate each other or to be in reconstituted families.
Dr Sasha Rose Neil, Sociologist from University of Leeds, UK

Computers and technology are widening the generation gap.
Emily McCauley, Northern Ireland

Families have always been living, breathing things.
Pat van der Veer, Nova Scotia, Canada

I'm ten years old. My mother never married and I find it fine that my father doesn't live with us and has no contact.
Michael Stanley, Berlin, Germany

Our generation of families may continue to erode. Pressures on the family these days include gays. The nuclear family is against our religious traditions.
Sadiq Isa Modibbo, Kaduna, Nigeria

I'm in favour of the family. I've travelled a lot and seen that what we call the traditional family is really the nuclear family.
Ana Gonzalo, Spain/Belgium

Greater individualism and materialism is resulting in more families breaking up.

Gitanjali Prasad, Calcutta, India
You have to distinguish between the rural and urban family. Not much change in rural families but huge changes in the urban scene. Because of job-induced mobility the extended family can't function as it did. Greater individualism and materialism is resulting in more families breaking up. But the numbers are miniscule compared to the west.
Gitanjali Prasad, Calcutta, India

Are families headed by single mothers, or step-parents, or foster parents, or gays and lesbians, or surrogate parents happier than traditional families? In western society the male chauvinist pig is being replaced by the female chauvinist pig.
Mohan Singh, Kingston on Thames, UK

What is the family for? To take care of the children and the old folks. If it does that successfully it's a healthy family. What's wrong with tolerating different families?
Donnamarie Leeman, Coffrane, Switzerland

In China there's the conception that boys are superior to girls. Girls suffer and have to do a lot of housework. Children growing up in one-child families will have many problems when they grow up with social skills.
Hong-Mei, Montreal, Canada/Hong Kong

Families have changed over the millennia. My definition of family is security and nurturing. If it doesn't have those things in it then it won't work.
Jeanette McNamee, Brisbane, Australia

Every government everywhere is going to legislate on the family. On divorce governments legislate based on social alarms. States will increasingly legislate to affect the number of children people have although perhaps not going as far as China did.
Professor Delia Davin, University of Leeds, UK

Children need support - especially disabled children. I'm visually impaired and needed the support of my family to decide about my career. Indian cities are exposed to the western way of life. The faster the process happens the sooner the family disintegrates.
Subramani Narayanan, Madras, India

There are 17 people in our family. My father has two wives. Being in a family gives us a sense of belonging.
Akem Touray, Freetown, Sierra Leone

We are so dependent on new technology that people are not communicating as they did in the past. Families need to sit down and spend quality time together. We hear a lot of politicians talking about family values. There's an emphasis on discussing these issues but we've lost the ability to really interact one-to-one.
Dave Adams, Missouri, USA

The internet is a great too to keep in touch real-time. Letters used to take ages to get home and people just didn't have a letter-writing habit.
John Borda, St Ives, UK/Gibraltar

It must be a natural family where a father and a mother can give their love. Children need role models. In the interests as children and mankind the family must remain.
Bell Fikre, Amsterdam, Netherlands

The human animal was originally a nomadic carnival. The family system evolved based on economics when settled societies emerged.
Thomas Nagle, London, UK

The family is the basic social unit. It is important to turn out socially well-healed people. Husbands and wives should share out the housework.
Syed Zainul Mahmood, Bangladesh

Australia has the worst suicide and drug abuse rate in the world. This is due to the high incidence of family break-up. Love is the most spiritual aspect of life.
Devendra Rautela, Melbourne, Australia

Return to the top of the page


Your comments before we went ON AIR:

The family has always been in flux and is tied with social and economic change over time. The most important point of the family, whether there are children in the household or not, is to provide a stable and consistent environment of unconditional love. Without these key elements the value of the family is debatable.
Michael, USA

Many of today's problems in society is due to lack of a family structure. Kids return from school to a child minder. Parents return home too tired to listen to the children. There are more single mothers than ever before. The most important thing a child needs is psychosocial support, not expensive presents. The institution of marriage has to be 'reestablished'. There is tremendous technological advance and if we have to enjoy that we have to go to the 'old way' of family life.
Kumar, UK

It makes me sad when I see women calling home and asking their kids if they have eaten.

Farah, USA
The family as we know it was dead and buried a long time ago once we sent women to work long hours and still expect them to keep their role as nurturers of the family. I work with a lot of women and I always sense that these people naturally excel at a profession within the realm of the house. It makes me sad when I see these women calling home and asking their kids if they have eaten and so forth. What a pity.
Farah, USA

It was Plato who envisaged a utopian state where the philosopher king has no family and as such need not possess anything nor has he any aspirations to be greedy or to be rich . Then a situation would arise when husbands may not know their wives and parents their children since sex and community life is abandoned. Who would like to live in such a chaotic society? Family is the buckle that binds, the hyphen that joins human relationships. the fact that there is ver little harmony in family relationships these days tells more about the immature ,uncivilised behaviour of some people. By destroying a family you would be destroying the world.
Rajamani, Hong Kong

I have been living overseas in the USA with my family for three years and am now returning home to the UK. Turning my back on a so-called successful career. Based on this experience, the pressures of working for a Global Telecoms company, overseas, and having to travel extensively, although not uncommon these days is detrimental to the type of family life I was brought up with when I was a boy. My family has suffered as a result and we are returning to the UK in order to rescue our marriage and provide a more traditional stable environment. Too much emphasis these days is placed on materialistic things with less on the value of family relationships. I for one have learnt a valuable and hard lesson. Family, friends and time invested with them is far more precious than an expensive car in the garage of a lovely show home in Surrey.
CS Bell, USA

Families are vital and this will remain as long as humans remain on the Earth. The media are, in my opinion to blame for insinuating that families are no longer important and are always highlighting cases of break-ups of families and alternate lifestyles. For the majority families form the core of who we are, our beliefs, our ambitions and our goals. For me my family are THE most important part of my life and come above any riches or material possessions. So please Tony Blair protect and help retain family life and through this help promote a happy and fulfilled society.
Melissa, England

When did this idealised family exist? Perhaps for a single generation. Before that people were locked into marriage, whether it worked or not. Women had virtually no rights in the eyes of the law. People worked far longer hours for less money and had a lower life expectancy. Children were sent out to work to provide for the family. Look at the historical facts, rather than inventing fiction.
Andrew Dowle, UK

Once people worked to live, now they live to work. What a great loss. I knew someone who died recently who never owned their own home, only worked in simple factory jobs but she was the happiest and strongest person I have ever known. She had more friends and close family than some children can count to these days. We as a society are sorely missing that point.
Peter Richardson, UK

I think it should be OBLIGATORY to teach this to people at school the differences between marriage and just living together. And I suspect that the understanding would do more than any high moral statements to re-establish marriage as the norm.
David Rogers, UK

Once people worked to live, now they live to work, what a great loss

Peter Richardson, UK
The family has been changing throughout history and will no doubt continue to do so. However, I do feel that we are beginning to lose sight of the value that marriage and family can have. A good marriage and a good family life can do so much to give you security, stability, a sense of being loved and of self-worth, and an understanding of the value and problems inherent in relationships with other people.
Kirsty Hearn, UK

The family is the basic unit of society and it will remain the basic unit. Even if we start mass-producing cloned babies, we will need foster families to rear them. Without a decent family structure, we will end up with a world full of psychopaths.
Syed Zainul Mahmood, Bangladesh

There is nothing like family for support and sharing common values - the further you are away from them the more you appreciate how much they really mean to you

Helen Sharratt, Canada
Gordon B Hinkley (president of The church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints) said that the Family is the foundation of society and that the destruction of the family will lead to the downfall of society.
Andrew Casey, UK

The very basis of society is the family cell - when you remove this essential ingredient you take away the cornerstone of community life. A child does not understand what a post-modern era is, he or she is not concerned about how liberal or free-thinking our media has become, they just long for and thrive in the context of maybe not perfect parents, but certainly trying ones.
Andrew McCourt, Ireland

The family structure is also changing in Japan. More women go to the office, and less babies are born. The decline of the birth rate is going to be one of the serious problems in Japan. How to solve this problem is unclear, but the cause is very clear. It is economic problem. Not to be in reduced circumstances, women work and don' t bear babies. I think this point is the same as other countries. Government should set a more beneficial welfare system, I think.
Yoshihiro Nakamura, Japan

The family has changed forever. It will never be the same again. Our world is changing too fast and we are all in a mess. If, we have anything to complain about it ought to be the 'loss of individuality' or 'personal identity'. The family fostered the growth and development of those areas. Now, as the family deteriorates, we see the members of the family losing their positions in a stable society. The dysfunction of families is at an all time high and getting worse by each passing day. We have lost our souls to technology, efficiency experts, and greedy corporations. We are a society that places more emphasis on what each member can take rather than what each member can give. And, that is the first step toward our own demise.
Dave Adams, USA

I am sickened by the demise of the family . I can't understand people who think it is better not to be a part of one , or else to work so long and hard that they never see each other anyway . I am just grateful to be part of a family that cares about me and I would never seek to abandon them .
Mark Verth, UK

I believe divorce rates are increasing, nobody seems to value marriage as they used to - sometimes you have to work at it you have good times and bad times, more young girls are getting themselves pregnant and there ends up being no father around to bring them up, because they are young they don't appreciate the importance of a father figure.
Lisa, UK

Nowadays it seems that people no longer want the responsibility of a family and all that it brings. Consider all the parents who want to work, leaving their child to be raised by nannies/babysitters/childminders. Not only do they want the right to pass the responsibility onto another, they want to be paid for it by the taxpayer who did not want them to have a family anyway! Their choice is their choice. Being a parent is one of the most responsible jobs there is. Parents are shaping and developing the minds and personalities of the world leaders of future generations; the scientists who discover the cure for cancer/the common cold; Mother Theresa's . Something has to give and in this case it's the family: parents making children fit in with their lifestyles without cramping their style (how many times have you heard - having a baby's not going to change me/us?); adult children cannot fit parents/relatives into their busy schedules - if children cannot grow up close to their parents and realise their value, how can they return that love in demonstrable ways? We are throwing the family away with our selfish lifestyles. Family is a commitment. How many of us will, in old age, sit alone on Christmas Day because we have let our family go?
Jenni, UK

Support from the extended family becomes logistically impossible, and their ability to influence their offspring's marriage correspondingly weakened

Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK
As we become more mobile, pursuing jobs and lifestyles far away from where we were brought up, it is inevitable that what we consider to be "family" has to be redefined. The extended family invariably live a long way away, and we are left with what we have built ourselves ... spouse and children. Support from the extended family becomes logistically impossible, and their ability to influence their offspring's marriage correspondingly weakened ... out of sight, out of mind. And as we all go through periods of marital strain, the lack of local support from family causes us to exaggerate our problems and lose perspective.
Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK

When my parents divorced, it screwed up my life. When my first child was born I felt as if a missing part of me had returned.

I don't know about you, but I need to be part of a family, and will make every effort, self abasement and sacrifice to keep this one going. One divorce was enough.
Clive P Mitchell, UK

The depth of the institutions of marriage and family were sacrificed to the new concepts of "gay" and "living together".

Tilak Abeysinghe, Bosnia &Herzegovina
The Family is a group of people living together, bonded by the strong blood relationship. In traditional societies the concept of family provided its members the reassurance of cooperation and security. The marriage was the means of making of the family.

With the so-called modernisation which generated false values in the society, the family was considered to be a "burden" instead of a strength and the marriage became a "sacrifice of freedom". The depth of the institutions of marriage and family were sacrificed to the new concepts of "gay" and "living together". The marriage, which was an agreement between two people largely witnessed by the society, became just an agreement between two individuals who got together on the basis of sex in place of the family. This caused the disintegration of the institution of family in the modern societies.
Tilak Abeysinghe, Bosnia &Herzegovina

In today's world there are simply too many ways for divorces to destroy people's lives. We tend to live in fear much more than we used to. If I ever get married I am ensuring that there is a solid pre-nuptial agreement that guards both of our personal health and wealth, simply because I'm scared silly that everything that I have, and will work for will be taken by a woman who decides she doesn't love me any more. Personally, I will avoid marriage as much as I can so that personal possessions are not a subject of discussion if we ever split up.
Paul Charters, England

Having been working with IT for over 30 years I accept change, but only when it makes for an improvement to life. The changes and devaluation of family life have not improved society generally, but have lead to an increase in social unrest and possibly crime. Having heard debates about family for years, it would now appear that lifetime commitments are no longer important and nor is motherhood seen as an important role. I would like to see a society where a conventional family was revered and women stopped saying, "I am only a mother", when indeed they are carrying out a most valuable and underrated job.
Brian, England, UK

In my own situation, my wife works in the same institution as me (education sector). She pays her own pension, develops her own career, and is currently on a weeks business trip in Germany while I look after our 10 year old daughter (who now resists 'babysitters', uses her PC for homework extensively, likes fashion clothes, and is heavily influenced by media advertising and trends). Our lifestyle is dependent on my wife working as much as me and mortgage, car, holiday, and bill responsibilities are shared between us. In many ways we have to think and operate like a 'business' in our own right - seeking out the best suppliers of banking services or transportation - with us both as joint shareholders. To paraphrase - "the family is dead. Long live the family."
Martin Dart, Oxford, UK

The institution of the family is faced with threats it has never experienced before and this means that civilised society is in peril. Traditional family values -fidelity to spouse, keeping marriage vows, putting children first, teaching morals are disintegrating. If the trend away from the traditional family continues, mankind will revert to the jungle and human civilisation, painstakingly built up over thousands of years, will be destroyed in one or two generations.
Jeff, USA

Husband and wife working, two car families, holidays abroad, separate lives and agendas. Yes its true to say that families are evolving but not for the better. Modern life is totally based on material aspects, the biggest mortgage, widescreen tv , the list is endless. Yes, you can choose to change our consumer lifestyle and care for and be involved with our children.
Denis O'Keeffe, UK

Families will always change over time. Who would have thought 1000 years ago that children would no longer go about their day feeding livestock but instead go to schools. All things will change overtime and should never be seen as something bad or dangerous.
Mark Isaacson, USA

To me the nuclear patriarchal family has outlived its usefulness and I won't regret its eventual death.

Steve Foley, England
To me the nuclear patriarchal family has outlived its usefulness and I won't regret its eventual death. Although it is the natural way of things that a child is born of a man and woman and should ideally be brought up by both, this is not nowadays as common as it was. Many children are brought up by only one parent while other people such as myself can have a loving relationship with my partner of the opposite gender but have no wish to father any children. To me, my partner and I are a "family" but neither of us dominates the other.
Steve Foley, England

It is stated that, "family life is changing shape as we alter the way we live and work." Who 'we' are that is altering the way we live and work is a moot point. The Luddites had no control over the future of their families and society and it was the destruction of the fabric of society that there were protesting against and the fact that they had no say in any outcome. They were not protesting against change per se but the lack of any democratic participation by the majority who were deleteriously affected. Families like societies can not live in a vacuum, yet every day the air is getting thinner.
R Tolkien, Australia

Having grown up in large, extended families in mid-20th century India, I enjoy the company, wisdom and experience of innumerable grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews and nieces.

Mohan Singh, India
The evolution of human society over the centuries has witnessed the family structure change. Having grown up in large, extended families in mid-20th century India, I enjoy the company, wisdom and experience of innumerable grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews and nieces. The naturally growing bond between relatives; the support and sustenance given by the immediate family is being replaced by the more formalised counselling from social workers, doctors, financial advisors, psychiatrists etc., for a fee.

Often I wonder if the regimented life imposed on us by the modern state enhances the quality of human life; is it not time to roll back the frontiers of state from family life? Frequently, the state gives the impression that human beings are there to reproduce and replenish its coffers; economics is all & nothing else matters.
Mohan Singh, India

Could this mean that each member of the family is 'separate', a stranger in the family, only to be hugged and a brief 'hello?'

Serena, Hong Kong
I am only a 18 year old school student but I have decided that me and family life don't mix. I wouldn't ever like to marry or if I do, at 50 years old. I give more importance to work; I value it more than children or a husband. What does this mean? Well, from my point of view, the family HAS changed: marriage is declining in importance because of the divorce rate. With both spouses working, will there be time to be together? With more woman's rights, the woman does not play the traditional role of the housewife: children have babysitters. There may be less 'contact'. Also children spend more time on TV so there is even less contact. Could this mean that each member of the family is 'separate', a stranger in the family, only to be hugged and a brief 'hello?'
Serena, Hong Kong

My family means a great deal to me. I believe that the family is a living, breathing organism that has evolved over a long period of time. It provides security and acceptance to its members. As such it is a vital component in any society. I have been married three times and have four children from two husbands. I think that my 21-year-old son best illustrated the cohesive bond within our family structure when he coined the term the "Family Vine."

This bond was beautifully illustrated at the recent wedding reception of my oldest daughter. My current husband and my two ex husbands attended and we all danced and conversed together. If possible, major national holidays and other special occasions are spent together. I believe that this has given the children a good example in addition to making their lives smoother. Families are the glue that binds society. What would serve as a replacement for a family?
Pat van der Veer, A Brit in Nova Scotia

A strong family may bring false feelings of safety; on the other hand family internal oppression and favouritism that later reflects countrywide as nepotism, corruption and straightforward cruelty towards others, demonstrates the worst side-effects of a strong family.

I think the current northern European tendency to loosen family ties and allow thus more rights and respect to an individual is on the right track.
Mikko Toivonen, Finland

A family is as many people of like mind, tastes and affections as choose to live together. It doesn't require sanctifying by institution. Children need care and love from all the adults in their family, however many there are. Babies can't raise themselves.
Jill Mac, UK

I think that the rapid technology age is travelling too fast for the conventional family.

Emily McCauley, Northern Ireland
I have to admit, as a sixteen year old, divorce rates are destroying the stability of families. It will get to the point when hardly anyone will be married and a family unit as we knew or know it will become none existent. I think that the rapid technology age is travelling too fast for the conventional family, and the generation gaps are widening as we speak, estranging family members apart.
Emily McCauley, Northern Ireland

This question postulates that before contemporary changes in family structure, it had been unchanging. Family structures, like all other aspects of human society, have evolved since humans first developed as a species. The nuclear family found in modern Western societies was itself a development of the industrial era.

I think the real difference in how the family is evolving nowadays is the acceleration of change.
Maria Gatti, Québec - Canada

Family as known through the ages has changed constantly. New forms have taken place and when better models have been found a change has taken place. Family like all human institutions is dynamic and fluid. There need not be despair but hope. Hope that we will learn and evolve a better family in future or before it is too late and go the animal ways!
Dr H Bhogal, UK

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Dr Sasha Rose Neil, University of Leeds
"Feminism has contributed to changes in the family"
Pat van der Veer, Nova Scotia, Canada
"Families have always been a living, breathing thing and they evolve"
Michael Stanley, Germany
"I don't find it annoying my father doesn't live with me"
Sadiq Isa Modibbo, Kaduna, Nigeria
"Our generation of families may continue to erode"
Ana Gonzalo, Belgium
"To preserve the family, we have to overcome our natural ego"
Jeanette McNamee, Brisbane, Australia
"The family is the most important thing in our culture, globally"
Professor Delia Davin, University of Leeds
"Governments have ideas of how they feel the family should be"
Subramani Narayanan, Madras, India
"Children are vulnerable and have to be protected in the family"
Dave Adams, Missouri, USA
"Technology seems to be backfiring on society and disturbing the family"
Thomas Negel, London, UK
"The family system is artificial"
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Talking Point stories are at the foot of the page.


 E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Talking Point stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes