Family life in 1990s Britain is characterised by change, diversity and uncertainty. We know that more people are co-habiting, fewer are marrying, and that there are increasing levels of relationship breakdown and repartnering. We know too that, for men, the transition from an industrial economy to a service economy has been accompanied by increased unemployment, and increased insecurity of employment, while more and more women are entering the workforce and gaining increased economic independence. What do these changes mean for parenthood and family life? Is the concern that today's parents are not satisfactorily fulfilling their responsibilities for the care, control and development of children - that there is a parenting deficit - justified? Is the growth of individualism, and the pursuit of self-gratification compatible with parenting? Is parenthood just another consumer choice? Or is the quality of family relationships, and the happiness of family members, the principal concern of today's parents? Given the widespread and profound nature of the changes, we know surprisingly little about how today's mothers and fathers have responded to them.
This report fills some of the gaps in our knowledge. Drawing on the wide-ranging information about the lives of all those in Great Britain born in one week of 1958 collected by the National Child Development Study, by means of interviews and questionnaires, the study looks at partnerships and family formation, employment and income, child-care and other parenting behaviour, family activities, and relationships, and social attitudes and values. The study concludes with an assessment of the implications of its findings, and ways in which more effective support could be provided for those undertaking the challenging task of parenting in the 1990s.