The dangers of promoting the family unit as a necessity.

Unicef have published a report which concludes that British children are amongst the unhappiest in the developed world. The reasoning behind this finding is that there is too much of an emphasis on materialism as a consequence of parents spending too little time with their offspring.

At a first glance, this doesn’t seem to be too deep. It is clearly obvious that British people work some of the longest hours in Europe. However, the structure the ensuing debate has been framed within is very dangerous territory.

James O’Brien, a radio host on London’s LBC network, introduced the debate on his show this afternoon. O’Brien stated that he believed that though taboo, the most important underlying factor causing the issue raised by the Unicef report was a move away from a central family unit. We have dealt with this issue on roughsociety before, and we clearly believe that this sociological model, the male breadwinner model, is archaic in 21st century Britain. He cited Spain as being a good example of this, where children rank as the fifth happiest in Europe.

LBC's James O'Brien

To say that this is the only way children are expected to grow up “happy”, is to basically say women should not work, should stay at home, should fit the 1920’s model of a housewife.

This is not only outrageous, it is dangerous and could lead to a full blown and serious debate in the public sphere as to whether or not the basic principles of sex equality should be reviewed.

The real problem is that worker’s rights are not protected when it comes to childcare. The report itself mentions this, but this is conveniently forgotten by those debating the issue. It must be a right for women and men to both have the flexibility within their working hours to chop and change as is needed in order to spend some time with their children as the progressive governments in Scandinavia ensure (Incidentally, Swedish children ranked second in the list). In doing so, it will promote sex equality as a standard and it also deals with the second aspect of the report which states that children are now being dealt with in consumerist and materialistic ways. The more time a parent spends with a child, the less guilt they will feel for not showering said child with gifts (O’Brien’s words, not mine).

But in no way does this mean there needs to be a reversion to male breadwinner models in families, and neither do we need to even consider reverting an ever progressive stance on sex equality. It is clearly regressive to suggest that women should not be career driven, or are permitted to be so as long as children are not in the picture. We see that Italy continues to experience decreasing levels of happiness in children, whilst arguably having an even stronger emphasis on family values than most of Western Europe.

We must consider the Conservative aims to promote this family unit and whether or not this is a necessary priority for the government. There was a lot of reactionary statements made in the aftermath of the riots blaming bad parenting and granted, in some cases, this may very well be the case. However, it is ridiculously old fashioned to suggest that a family unit remains the only way in which to bring up a child in a healthy and happy environment. Community involvement is the absolute paramount replacement in our ever changing society. With proactive and productive communities, happiness and stability can begin to flourish, producing young citizens proud to be involved and happy as they grow.

Nico Leon.

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