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Together for Christmas: The complexities and changing nature of our family gatherings


With the festive season almost upon us, the realities and complexities surrounding our traditional notions of Christmas as a time for families are examined in important new research sponsored by the ESRC.

As thousands of divorced and separated parents decide where their children will be for the celebrations, a study into post divorce family life shows that fairness and equality between fathers and mothers may end up being unfair on the youngsters.

The Fathers 4 Justice movement, whose ‘Xmas Demo’ takes place on Saturday (December 18), is among those calling for family law to adopt a principle of pure equality between parents. But new research shows that children who spend an equal amount of time in two homes are not necessarily better off than those with one.

Step-families are the most rapidly growing type of family unit. It has been estimated that just under 20 per cent of dads aged 34 are step-fathers - nearly double the number among men born just 12 years before them.

The extent to which dilemmas and tensions in step families are brought into sharp relief at Christmas, as parents and step-parents aim to do what is best for the children, is revealed in another new piece of research.

And as Christmas becomes ever more materialistic, Caribbean families in Britain are increasingly turning to Kwaanza – a festival rooted in an African tradition - as the setting for their family celebrations, according to a study of second and third-generation young people.

Many will go to church on Christmas morning in what they see as part of their Caribbean tradition. But Kwaanza is now also widely celebrated by black people across the Caribbean, the UK and rest of Europe, usually alongside Christmas, or even as a reaction against it.

Becky Gammon | alfa
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