For Better or For Worse - The Change in the Traditional British Family

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Official statistics show nearly half of children born in the UK are now born out of wedlock, double the rate compared to 20 years ago. In 2009, the proportion of unmarried mothers giving birth hit a record high of 46% (source Harry Wallop, The Telegraph, 22nd October 2010). comments on recent findings by Harry Wallop of The Telegraph on 22nd October 2010 regarding the proportion of unmarried mothers in the UK and notes the British family, traditionally headed by 2 married parents and usually completed by two children seems to be on the decline. notes illegitimacy, a real taboo back in the 1970’s (in 1976 only 9% of recorded births were to unmarried mothers: source Martin Beckford, The Telegraph, 27th March 2009) seems to becoming the norm in the 21st century.

The company specialises in personalised thank you cards and invitations and has noticed significant changes in the ordering patterns of their customers in recent years. Jane O'Neill, founder of states "Many customers seem to order their baby thank you cards first and come back a year or two later to create their wedding thank you cards."

The company believes one of the biggest reasons for the change in values and norms of the traditional British family is it is now widely and socially accepted for children to be raised outside of marriage. People’s views on marriage and its institution have altered dramatically over the past decade. More couples now choose to co-habit before getting married and statistics show that only about 60% of these couples will actually go on to tie the knot. As a consequence of these statistics, the number of babies born out of wedlock is likely to reach the landmark of 50 per cent anytime soon. Indeed, it is estimated by the year 2020, there will be more single people than married people (source Mandy Barrow, British Life and Culture,

Despite the rules in the UK being liberalised where couples can be married it seems fewer people than any time over the last 100 years are choosing to take their vows. Marriage rates are at their lowest rate ever, according to the Office for National Statistics with only 231,490 couples tying the knot in 2009, compared to 232,990 in 2008. (source:, February 2010).

Jane O’Neill, founder of can resonate with the 2009 figures recorded by the Office of the National Statistics as she had her first child as an unmarried mother after being with her partner for 10 years. Jane says “the actual act of marriage at the time wasn’t important to me, I believed the ultimate commitment to one another was to have a child together, our marriage a couple of years later before our 2nd child was born just consolidated and confirmed our commitment to one another.“

Britain is not the only country to be experiencing the demise of the traditional family. In the US the number of children born out of wedlock reached a record high of 41% in 2008, up from 28% in 1990 according to “The New Demography of American Motherhood study”. (source: Fox News, May 7th 2010). Only time will tell if the next generation, nearly half of which will be born out of wedlock will be for raised for better or for worse.


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Jane O'Neill
Baby Cards Now
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