Friday, 9 November 2007

The Family Of The Future

One of the news items that caught our attention this week was a BBC series on the family of the future (out to about 2050). The series consisted of a number of short pieces that are collected about a central web page (see page). The pieces are evidentially based upon an attitudinal survey conducted for the BBC by ICM (see survey), and the TV pieces highlight some of the more interesting findings in the survey. A more interesting summary page is on the BBC web site (see page).

Some of the points that have stayed with me are that there are just over 17 million families in the UK. 71% of these are headed by a married couple (is marriage failing as an institution?) and the average family has 1.8 children – below the demographic replacement rate, but not far below. It amused me to see that families without children under 10 sleep for 38% of their time, and those with children under 10 sleep for 36% of their time. I remember well the sleep deprivation associated with small children!

Another aspect of the survey that caught my interest was the comparison of a UK family with ones from Egypt, Sierra Leone, India and Indonesia. The video on family life in China (see video) is particularly timely in reminding us of how easy family life is in Europe when compared with other parts of the world.

Perhaps the most thought provoking piece is the speculative piece on the family of 2050 (see piece). It begs the question of what sort of architecture the family might have (More same sex families? More revolving parentage?), how the family – as an institution – will interact with technology (Virtual families? Teleconferencing family meals?), and how the family will interact with the state (More state intervention in family life? Less privacy within the family?).

All in all, this proved to be a fascinating glimpse into one of the core elements of society. It is unlikely that the family will cease to exist as an institution by 2050. However, as it reflects the world around it, family life in 2050 might be very different to how it is today.

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