Family life

Family life

Attitudes to non-traditional family behaviours

This chapter examines changing attitudes to social norms related to five aspects of family life, including choosing to remain childless, cohabitation without marriage, children born outside of marriage, full-time work with young children, and divorce with children. Using data from the European Social Survey (ESS) we look at changes in UK attitudes between 2006/7 and 2018/19. We also consider comparisons between the UK and a set of European countries.


Attitudes in the UK have become more liberal between 2006/07 and 2018/19 towards all five family behaviours. In terms of the level of disapproval, the rank order of the norms remains unchanged, with respondents in both years most likely to disapprove of divorce with children aged under 12, and least likely to disapprove of choosing never to have children. Levels of disapproval fell in more or less equal proportions across the behaviours.

Proportion of people who disapprove of each non-traditional family behaviour,
2006/07 and 2018/19


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