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Research into ’The New Family’ in Britain


Researchers from Bradford and London have been awarded a grant to examine emerging new forms of the traditional family unit and how people value a commitment to them.

Professor Simon Duncan, from the University of Bradford’s department of Social Sciences and Humanities, has been given a research grant from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) to work with Miranda Phillips from the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) in London.

Their research, entitled ’Attitudes and Practices to The New Family’, will take around two years to complete. Professor Duncan said: “Some commentators are currently saying the family is rapidly shifting, maybe even collapsing, and is being replaced by looser, more individual arrangements.

“However, recent research suggests that although different family forms are emerging, people value moral commitment to others just as much as before, and accept these new forms as adequate means of doing so.

“Our research aims to assess this claim by gathering information from people across the country, primarily through a British Social Attitudes survey and also using data from the national census, to see what the current picture really is and if there is such a thing as ‘The New Family’.”

This research project will focus on areas including; attitudes and practices around partnership commitment in conventional and non-conventional partnerships - such as same sex relationships, how far friends replace family, whether divorce is now an accepted part of the life course, and what balance can be drawn between a person’s self-interest and their commitment to others.

NatCen Researcher Miranda Phillips, said: “This is an exciting opportunity for us to collaborate on such an interesting and timely piece of research. The British Social Attitudes team are looking forward to the challenge of designing survey questions which can tap into public attitudes and practices on such a complex and shifting topic.

“The particular value of this study is that it allows us to build on findings from earlier qualitative research, developing our understanding of these issues further by quantifying them through large-scale, representative survey.”

The major platform for this research will be 40 questions on the 2006 British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey. Each BSA survey comprises around 3,300 interviews with adults across Britain, consisting of a face-to-face interview and a short self-completion supplement. The questions asked for this module will use a mixture of factual questions, attitudinal questions and scenarios or ‘vignettes’. The survey is due to take place in summer 2006 and the findings of the research will be published in 2007.

Emma Banks | alfa
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