Families failing to keep in touch

FAMILIES are seeing less of their relatives - unless they want to borrow money from them, according to a new report.

The Family Policy Studies Centre has found that couples with children have less contact with relatives than they did a decade ago. Contact with grandmothers is down by 10 per cent.

The fall in family contact partly stems from increased geographical distance between relatives, but even taking this into account contact has still fallen. There is also evidence that people phone each other less.

Among young middle-class families there has been one of the biggest declines in seeing relatives, with a drop of nearly one-fifth in the proportion who report seeing their children's grandmother every week.

Paradoxically those with dependent children appear to be less "family- centred" than those without. But despite the decline in family contact couples with children are more likely than they were a decade ago to turn to relatives for help with money. The research shows that parents are the most common source of monetary help among those with children, accounting for nearly three-quarters of the loans or gifts received by those with a child under-five.

Children living in step-families and with lone parents are more likely to ring ChildLine about family relationships than those who live in the traditional two parent family according to a new report by the charity.

Fifteen per cent of the calls the helpline receives are now about family relationships and parents splitting up - the largest category after physical or sexual abuse. The report recommends mediation for children when their parents are divorcing.