Decline of the family 'due to individualism'

Baroness Thatcher and the cult of individualism which she epitomises were vigorously attacked at the annual meeting of Relate Marriage Guidance in London yesterday.

Family life has declined as a result of the belief that adults are autonomous beings and marriage has become just a contract between individuals which can be broken by agreement, Professor A H Halsey, emeritus fellow of sociology at Nuffield College, Oxford, said.

Lady Thatcher had assumed that individualism could be imposed in the market place without affecting the sacredness of kinship ties, but the move away from collectivism had consequences for the family, he said. Children suffered from the increase in divorce as a result. A consequence of the individualism, which began to flourish in the 1960s, was that children were often treated as objects when families split.

Children whose parents divorce tend to die earlier, be less healthy, obtain fewer qualifications, and are more likely to become involved in crime. This is because children need to see how two adults, their mother and father, negotiate problems and find a way of living together, said Professor Halsey. Without that experience they are more likely to have broken marriages themselves.

Professor Halsey emphasised to the audience - which included MPs Angela Rumbold, Peter Bottomley and Emma Nicholson - that Government policies had an 'appalling record' and had done little to support family life. Families had been undermined by the tax system and the erosion of child benefit.

Professor Halsey added that women were now worse off than they used to be because they wanted to be men and were combining the role of breadwinner with their traditional roles.

'Men should be saying I want to become a woman. The world would be a far better place if more men wanted to become women, than women wanted to become men,' he said.

A member of the audience argued that Lady Thatcher was an example which disproved his argument, by showing how much a woman could achieve. But Professor Halsey said that she was the perfect example of what happened when a woman tried to be a man.

Earlier he said that it simply was not true that we were autonomous adults - if we were simply calculating machines we would never have families because it is so expensive in time and money. The family should be recognised in fiscal arrangements as a productive unit, said Professor Halsey.

'Interdependency is a good thing,' he said. 'As St Paul said we are all members of one another. We should use this idea to curb the individualism that has been growing since the Renaissance and the Reformation.'

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk