Golden era of marriage `a myth'

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The Independent Online
THERE HAS never been a "golden era" of marriage, the Home Secretary, Jack Straw, said yesterday. The institution had come in for a battering from recent social trends, Mr Straw said, yet relationships had always been a lot more complicated than a choice of singledom or marriage.

"We shouldn't get into a paddy about the decline of formal marriage, and the Government needs to recognise we can't legislate people into marriage," he said at a London conference called to discuss the Government's family policy.

The complexity of married life is underlined in research published today, which suggests that fathers lack the support they need to combine the roles of breadwinner and involved parent.

Although they are appreciated for being the family provider, fathers gain no credit for also being a sports coach, free taxi service and partner in computer games, says the report, published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Its research suggests that the perceived role of fathers as the main provider has not changed since the 1950s, but that their contribution to other aspects of family life goes unrecognised. Many fathers said that they also received demands from their children to provide money for items that were part of teenage consumer culture, which added to their stress.

Fathers who are unemployed or work long hours are at the highest risk of being seen as failures, because they are not able to provide for their families or to spend enough time with them.

Nearly 100 families, with children aged 11 to 16, were interviewed by researchers from the foundation.