Attitudes to marriage and family life among young adults in Britain differ markedly from their grandparents and even parents, with fewer than four out of 10 considering marriage as the best form of relationship. The annual British Social Attitudes report, based on interviews with 4000 people, found that 34 per cent of 18- to 34-year-olds believe that women should work full-time once their youngest starts school, compared with just 15 per cent of over-50s.

Middle-class parents were more likely to agree that mothers should return to work than poorer ones, and were less likely to consider raising children to be "life's greatest joy". Only 27 per cent of younger adults think family life suffers when the woman works. A similar proportion believes that what women really want is a home and children – compared with 43 per cent of pensioners.

In addition, only 38 per cent of young adults think marriage is the best kind of relationship – compared with 84 per cent of over-65s – and only 22 per cent think married couples make better parents than unmarried ones.

Geoff Dench, one of the authors of the report, claimed that the change in attitudes came about as a result of Labour's social reforms since the 1960s, which have tried to modernise the country by promoting individual freedom and "liberating" people from traditional family structures. As part of this revolution, welfare payments that rewarded traditional families – such as Married Couples' Allowance – were abolished. Because of this, the generation who grew up in the 1980s "when relatively few wholly traditional families remained in Britain", share a sense that "conventional family life is a thing of the past". Telegraph (UK), Jan 28

Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is the former deputy editor of MercatorNet