David Willetts, Shadow Cabinet member with responsibility for family policy, has argued that the ‘nuclear family’ is not set to disappear by pointing to evidence showing that most young people still aspire to get married.
"The long-term commitment of two adults to each other so they can raise their children together is not going the way of the bowler hat or Woolworths", he said.
Speaking to the Family and Parenting Institute, Willetts said that it is "wrong to misinterpret specific social changes such as most women being in paid work and the growing role of grandparents, as meaning that the so-called nuclear family is disappearing when it is not".
Surveys of young people show that almost nine in ten still aspire to get married, as do three quarters of co-habiting couples under 35.
Whilst societal changes have made that aspiration more difficult for many people to fulfil, Willetts said there is "a legitimate role for public policy in investigating why it is harder to fulfil these aspirations and trying to remove the obstacles where they are the fault of public policy".
"Sticking together and raising our children together has shifted from being seen as just part of the natural order to being thought of as more like climbing Mount Everest – a triumph of heroism and endeavour accomplished by few", he added.
"The so-called nuclear family is emphatically not on its way out. Most people spend most of their lives in a household headed by a married couple. It is a mainstream aspiration, which we should respect, admire and help people to fulfil".