Presentation given by Lynda Rose at the UN on 5-12-14 as part of a Transatlantic Summit on Strengthening the Family for Sustainable Development
Family, in the UK, is under threat. According to the Office for National Statistics, in 2012 47.5% of births were outside marriage, compared with 11% in 1979. It’s confidently predicted that by 2016 the majority of children will be born to parents who are not married. Contrary to what has been asserted, the legalization of same sex marriage has not helped strengthen marriage, but appears, on the contrary, to be encouraging couples to regard ‘legal’ recognition and sanction of their relationship as irrelevant.
This should worry us. It’s estimated today that 42% of all marriages end in divorce, while non-married partners are four times more likely to split than their married counterparts – which means that over 50% of children today will never know the reassurance of a stable home life with their birth mother and father. The reality, in fact, is of an extended, complex, and shifting family structure, where children experience lone or serialized parenting, and often live with a range of blood, half-blood, and non-blood related siblings. The majority of children today do not have a stable home environment.
This matters because the evidence is clear that children develop best in a stable, non-violent family environment – preferably, if not necessarily, with their biological parents. What matters most is stability, absence of abuse, and a feeling of security.
Yet it is precisely this that so many children today are not getting, and the result is an unprecedented rise in mental health problems. In 1995, in A Handboook on child and adolescent mental health, the Department of Health said that severe mental illness was rare in young people. Sadly, this is not the case today. Estimates vary, but research suggests that in any given year 20% of children under the age of 16 have a diagnosable mental health problem – mainly relating to conduct and emotional disorders.
On top of that, in 2013 the NSPCC reported that a third of Britain’s young experience suicidal thoughts, while in the same year Childline, a UK based telephone helpline for children, announced that it had had more than 34,000 consultations with children who talked about killing themselves.
The conclusion is inescapable that in 21st century Britain children are becoming increasingly alienated, while what we know as traditional ‘Family’ is disintegrating – caused by the prioritization of adult sexual behaviours and desires over children’s needs. Worse, as self justification, we are imposing these same sexually lax behaviours onto children – through education, the media, and a weasel interpretation of human rights and equality law. The message being given is that children are sexual beings, so it is their ‘right’ (if not obligation) to have sex as soon as they ‘feel’ ready. According to Brook Advisory Service, a leading UK sexual health charity, endorsed by the Department of Health, masturbation at age 9 is fine, while sex at 13 is now officially seen as a normal part of growing up. To quote, they give the “Green light” to
“Consenting oral and/or penetrative sex with others of the same or opposite gender who are of similar age and developmental ability’
Never mind the epidemic levels of sexually transmitted infections currently afflicting our young, many of which remain untreatable, or the almost 200,000 abortions a year – never mind the explosion in pornography and child abuse… And never mind that as result of these behaviours, young people today are becoming emotionally dysfunctional and finding it increasingly difficult to form long-lasting and meaningful relationships.
The truth is, unless we take urgent measures to reverse this ideological and damaging self-indulgence – teaching kids responsibility, self-value, and real respect for others; regulating media presentations of body image and relationships; providing financial incentives for marriage – not just the family, but the whole of society as we know it will be under threat.
 Family Breakdown is not about divorce, H Benson (2010), in a report for the Centre for Social Justice
 Lifetime Impacts: Childhood and Adolescent Mental Health, Understanding The Lifetime Impacts, Mental Health Foundation, 2005
 National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children
 Reported in The Telegraph, 27 November 2014