by Rila Wall
IT is a sad reflection on society that half of all British children could have unmarried or single parents within 10 years according to Mgr Michael Connolly, secretary of the Catholic Child Welfare Council.
Responding to the results of a survey published this week by the Family Policy Studies Centre in London, Mgr Connolly said that the high level of breakdowns of marriages leaves many children experiencing an "irregular" family life.
The survey, Family Change and Future Policy by Kathleen Kieran and Malcolm Wickes, predicts that the "proportion of children experiencing conventional family life parents married at the time they are born and continuing married until they are grown up — could fall as low as 50 per cent.
Family congress, page 5 The results also suggest that by the year 2000 one in five children will have parents who will divorce by the time the children are aged 16.
Mgr Connolly pointed out that these results reflect the ease with which marriages break-up today. "There is not enough encouragement or emphasis on `working' at marriage. It's all too easy now to just walk away."
The Catholic bishops, he pointed out, have been increasingly concerned about the level of marriage breakup in Britain and, following a three year study on family life, have instigated working parties in all the dioceses responsible for promoting support of the family at parish level.
The report is critical of the government for failing to address the present changes in family life. "These changes" the report states, "present major challenges for policy especially in the areas of employment, social security, housing, health, education and community care".
Mgr Connolly was less hasty to condemn the government for failing to meet the needs of the family, pointing out that local authorities also bear an increasing responsibility for family support, and that "many government initiatives, including the Children's Act of 1989 are supporting the family".
However, Mgr Connolly agreed with the report's suggestions that encouraging women back to the work place is placing added strain on the family structure.
"We may start to see the disadvantages of the dual worker family as parents strive in their late twenties, thirties and early forties to combine too many roles: adequate spouse, responsible parent, career builder, breadwinner and mortgage payer," the report states.