Young Britain: Family values for the next generation;

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The Independent Online
Young Britain: Family values for the next generation

Many young Britons are disillusioned with their own parents for working long hours. The next generation wants to give their children a better deal, according to 2020 Vision, a survey of 10,000 young people aged between 12-25, exclusively previewed by The Independent every day this week.

Stephen Hartley-Brewer from north-west London is 17 and applying for university. But he is already thinking about when he will become a father, probably, he says, in his thirties. "The basic plan," he says, "is to become a merchant banker, which has a horrendous workload and dawn-till- dusk hours. It's not ideal for kids. So when I decide to have children, I'll give my job up and become a self-employed consultant so that I can work from home. Even though I might still have to work hard, I would be there for them all the time, instead of being that stressed bloke who comes home just before they are going to bed."

Stephen's attitude is typical of his generation. Asked to define a good parent, those surveyed ranked "providing nice home and clothes" bottom in their list of priorities, behind standards and discipline and concern about education. More important than all of these was "love and time spent with children" - 77 per cent said it was the most important characteristic of a good parent.

Researchers found young people often did not regard their own parents as role models, because they had failed to provide sufficient affection or support.

Both young men and women strongly backed equal sharing of responsibility for children, although women were sceptical that the men would live up to their high principles.

"I'd want to be there for them," says Danny Docherty, 18, a DJ and youth worker from Birkenhead. "If it came to push, I'd be happy to look after the kids and stay at home. I'd give up my career gladly. The well-being of a human being is more important than a career ... you have to choose before you have kids whether it's career that comes first or family. Because, to be honest, you can't have both."

Chris and Sarah Eappariello from Bishop Stortford have already been forced into making the choice. Aged 25 and 24 respectively, they have a 16-month- old daughter, Francesca. After she was born, Chris, an internal auditor, switched his job, which involved a lot of overseas travel so he could spend more time at home. Sarah, who had worked in investment banking, gave up her job.

They have decided against having a nanny or placing Francesca in a nursery. "I felt it was a lot better to be giving my time to Francesca than going out to work. We made that decision before we got married," says Sarah.

`Children will be my priority in life'

Beverley Bloom, 22, is the daughter of self-made property tycoon Desmond, who is said to be worth more than pounds 40m.

She is also a self-confessed shopping addict and celebrity "It girl".

"My brother, Baron, and I never had nannies. My parents actually didn't believe that we should brought up by somebody else. As soon as we were born they decided to work from home so they could spend as much time as possible with us.

"People always find it surprising when I tell them my dad built up a successful business and didn't sacrifice time with his family. But it was a conscious decision on his behalf because he didn't want to be one of these stay-away fathers.

"I actually think my dad was unusual. Most people I know didn't see their parents very much when they were growing up. My mum and dad didn't even get baby sitters when they went out in the evening.

"Every time they needed to go a party, we went with them, which was really fun. We were never excluded from any part of their life and that's why the four of us are still so close today.

"I would never have a nanny to look after my children because I just don't understand how people can bear to leave their children with strangers.

"You miss out on so many things if you are not around to see your children grow up. And nothing can take the place of parents who spend a lot of time at home.

"I know people who buy their child- ren presents to make up for not being there, but there's no way material goods can replace time and affection. In the end, there's no point in having a family if you can't spend time with your children.

"When I get married, children and family will definitely be my priority in life. I want a stable home life and marriage is definitely the best place for me to bring up my children. Divorce is really awful for families. I think if you are going to get married you should stick with it and work out your problems.

"Having said that, most of my friends long to get married and have children, even if their own parents have split up, so maybe young people want to give family life another chance."