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HomeNewsThe war on the family 2:  The retreat of marriage

The war on the family 2:  The retreat of marriage


Today we continue the series researched and written by Frank Wright on the war on the family, of which you can read Part 1 here. He argues that this war of attrition waged so successfully, socially, economically and politically, over the last 40 years, that today the married nuclear family is the exception not the rule. Today, he points to the failure of both fatherless and dual-worker ‘families’ as workable economic or social models.

THE war on the family is a war on marriage. The legal culture which has diluted marriage to a whimsy bears much of the blame for its ruin. It was argued that relaxing divorce laws would not lead to more broken homes and the enormous social and economic costs they incur. However these figures from a 2015 study show that family breakdown costs the UK £47billion every year, which is more than defence or social housing. It revealed that cohabiting unmarried couples accounted for 50 per cent of broken homes despite representing only 19 per cent of families. 

The data underlined a trend which has continued to this day. In his recent piece for CARE, The startling decline of marriage, James Mildred notes that marriage rates have fallen steeply since the 1970s, falling from 80 to 20 men in a thousand choosing to marry. The figures for women are worse, showing a drop from 62 in 1972 to only 18 in 2018. A mere 270,000 marriages took place in 2018, against 480,285 in 1972. The Church Times reported in May 2022 that marriage rates have fallen to their lowest point since 1862.

Mildred is careful to argue that social and economic factors contribute to the breakdown in marriage. However, he remains convinced that the relaxation of divorce laws from their introduction in 1858 have trivialised marriage to a generation in which only half of teenagers will get married, according to Harry Benson’s report of 2015. 

His findings are supported by more recent news that perhaps only 55-57 per cent of teenagers will ever marry, showing a rapid decline from the 90 per cent marriage rate of people now in their 60s.

The family – even the reduced unit of the nuclear family – remains the sane choice for the basis of a stable society. Police here and in the US make the same observation every few years, to rising opprobrium, that family breakdown is the major driver of urban violent crime. Gangs represent a parallel structure to the broken families from which many of their members are drawn. This observation, plain enough to be made by the Guardian in 2007 and the teachers’ union NASUWT in 2009, is one which recurs in police and government reports on youth gang culture but which has presumably disappeared from the media because it is racist to notice it.

Yet fatherlessness is not only a black problem. James Mildred took this from the annual government report on the state of the family: ‘Research by the Family Resources Survey last year showed that if you’re white and rich you get a dad and if you’re white and poor you probably don’t. In the wealthiest fifth of white families, 84 per cent were married. In the poorest fifth, just 19 per cent were married.’

Where families stay together they do so in a hostile environment. Hungary’s pro family policies, described as ‘procreation – not immigration’ provide generous tax breaks for families with children, whilst the rest of the West has adopted a model where both parents must work to support the expense of a family. Wages have been in decline since the rise of the two-wage household in the early 1970s, with 2022 seeing a record fall in household incomes.

The financial costs of bringing up a family remain stubbornly high. A family with two children, one under three and one at state school, can expect to pay up to £20 000 a year for nursery, after-school clubs and holiday provision. Yet many mothers return to work within weeks of giving birth, since the shabby option of raising children is seen as far inferior to the glamour of a full-time career. For those in genuine need there is no choice, but where there is one it is arguably work undertaken to pay for the childcare in order to go to work.

Mothering is the poor relation of life choices, to which is attached a sense of failure. We live in a ‘work first’ culture, which frames the family as something best escaped. Mothers are increasingly absent from the home, whether at work or forcing children into a background distraction from ‘me time’. The work of mothering is the most valuable a woman can do; it is demanding and exhausting, and near unbearable if undertaken alone. The depression and isolation felt by mothers is not only due to lockdowns, but arguably the result of diminishing family support networks and their replacement by transactional services.

Despite the allure of workplace liberation, it is noted that women often end up doing two jobs anyway, keeping the home around the office hours. This has fuelled further resentment, with a movement styling mothering and its dispensing of affection as ‘emotional labour’ from which women are encouraged to unilaterally withdraw. 

The expense of raising a family is borne by the parents, but what is the social cost? The war on the family looks set to end like all the others, which seldom show who is right, but only who is left. What will remain of our nation if we continue to follow these trends? There is a better alternative to national suicide, which is the result of our nation’s reduction to the lonely libertinism of the self.

The family is not just the bedrock of the state, it is the home and hearth of the future. If we do not fight for it, the flame will go out, and we shall be left not with a homeland but an island of mutual strangers seeking only the reignition of their jaded appetites. Foremost amongst our concerns should be the war on the family. Without it there is no kinship, no nation, and no future at all. To argue for it is to make the case for sanity, for the durable love of inextinguishable bonds, and for a renewed understanding of what is best for us all. 

Next: The sexualisation of womanhood and manhood.

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Frank Wright
Frank Wright
Frank Wright is a writer from the North East of England. He lives in Hampshire with his wife and young family. Follow him on Substack at .

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