The Family -- It's Not Toxic, It's Thriving

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Stories of childhood obesity, falling academic results, increase in violence and crime are so commonly described in the press. A report by Center Parcs and Parent Focus paints a much different picture on how modern families are spending time together.

In a climate of anxiety and negative comment about family life, it is both salutary and heartening to be reminded that the picture is not so bleak as one might believe. Family life is not without its challenges, but on the whole parents do want to do their best for their children and most are doing a good job.

Families remain strong and functional according to a report out today which paints a different picture from that of a "toxic childhood" so commonly described in the press. Stories of childhood obesity, increase in violence and crime, falling academic results, couch potato teenagers are rife and contribute to a sense of doom when thinking about our children and families. But given the opportunity, families describe a very different scenario.

With over 40% of families spending 8 hours or more a week together and 68% of parents agreeing that quality family time is about 'just being together', a new study suggests that, actually, families like each other and want to spend time together. Families are finding a modern, 21st century way of maintaining family life that may be different from previous generations, but is no less valuable or enjoyable for it.

The report, commissioned by Center Parcs and published by Parent Focus, looks at how modern families spend time together: how they have fun, what they enjoy doing and who takes part. Based on discussions with different parents across the country, it shows how parents are blending the old and new activities, creating a more democratic, participatory family life.

Commenting on the report, Mary MacLeod, Chief Executive of the Family and Parenting Institute said, "In a climate of anxiety and negative comment about family life, it is both salutary and heartening to be reminded that the picture is not so bleak as one might believe. Family life is not without its challenges, but on the whole parents do want to do their best for their children and most are doing a good job."

Families appear to have embraced the huge range of activities available to them including playing electronic games together alongside some of the more traditional activities like board games and going to the park. Creating good memories for their children was uppermost in parents' minds and was often the driving force behind the energy given over to making sure the family could spend leisure time together.

Center Parcs commissioned the report to better understand a picture of modern family life. Martin Dalby, Chief Executive of Center Parcs said "At Center Parcs we see families on holiday enjoying spending time together. In fact our most popular holiday activities are the ones where all members of the family can participate. Our experience conflicts with many predictions of the collapse of family life and we were keen to investigate just how real families interact in the 21st century. "

Justine Roberts, founder of Mumsnet welcomed the report saying, "It's refreshing to read a report on parenting which captures how hard most parents try to do the right thing for their children. On mumsnet.com we frequently encounter parents planning and working out ways to spend time with their family, despite the pressures of modern life that are put on them."

All of which provides a refreshing contrast to the doom-mongers intent on characterising the family as a failing institution on the brink of collapse.

Click here to see the report

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Viki Shadbolt

Hannah Burden