8 min read

The new normal: Modern families in 2016

The nuclear family of two married parents and one or more children hasn’t been the norm since the 1980s. And the UK population is now so diverse that there is not one definitive model of the ‘traditional’ family.

An extended family sitting on a leather sofa.

Between 2004 and 2014, cohabiting couples with one or more children were the fastest growing type of family in the UK, increasing at a rate of 30% in just 10 years. And of these, 84,000 were same sex cohabiting couples1. In 2014 there were 2 million single parents with dependent children in the UK, with women comprising 91% of these single parents1.

As the 21st Century steams ahead, the idea of the traditional family becomes increasingly diverse and the law has caught up to reflect this. In the first 18 months after same-sex marriage became legal in 2014, the Office for National Statistics reported that over 15,000 same-sex weddings took place2.

“Gay people are getting married and having children…” Mary Portas told the Observer last year when discussing how her brother was the sperm donor for the son she has with her civil partner. “…Something which feels very normal to us all as a family – and if it inspires people or makes them think differently – or even if it challenges their perception of ‘normal’ – then that can only be positive.”3

In addition, UK adoption rates have risen dramatically over the past few years. There was a record increase of 15% in 20134, and a further 5% growth between 2014 and 20155. The government has also been vocal in its encouragement of local councils to do more for children by placing babies in foster families who want to adopt, therefore minimalizing upheaval later in the child’s life.

And it’s hard to imagine US sitcom Modern Family becoming so popular if it were only about 2.4 children households. The success of the comedy series, which follows the trials and tribulations of the extended Pritchitt family, including a same sex couple with an adopted daughter, and an elderly divorcee remarried to a young Columbian wife, demonstrates the shifting attitudes of Western society.

The new normal is a diverse and constantly evolving picture and it’s important for all of us to understand these trends and statistics, so we can better plan for the future of our ever-changing families.

Note: Whilst we take care to ensure Talking Finance content is accurate at the time of publication, individual circumstances can differ so please don’t rely on it when making financial decisions.

[1] Families and households, ONS, 2014
[2] Gay marriage: 15,000 same-sex couples wed since law change, BBC News, 2015
[3] We’re the new normal family, The Guardian, 2015
[4] Adoptions show ‘record’ increase, BBC News, 2013
[5] Adoption facts and figures, Adoption UK, 2015