Family breakdown: It takes a village to raise a child

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A man holds a child's hand.
More than a million children in the UK are growing up without a father, according to the report. Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire

It’s a fact that one in four families are now single parent families, and year on year figures from the ONS record the changing shape of Britain.

The idea of cosy family life, headed by a toiling dad and a housewife mum is passing from living memory into history.

So in many ways the report from the Right-leaning Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) warning of the "tsunami of family breakdown" feels like a call for traditional values that are a blast from the past.

Certainly the pressure group Gingerbread thinks so, branding it melodramatic, pointing out that "the vast majority of children in single parent households grow up perfectly well".

But the CSJ believes that the lack of male role models - both as fathers in the home and as teachers in schools - is having a negative impact on the generation growing up in what it calls "men deserts".

Christian Guy. the director of the Centre for Social Justice, said today's report on family breakdown "is nothing to do with blaming single parents."

It warns that lone parent families are increasing at a rate of more than 20,000 a year and will total more than two million by the time of the next election.

It also points out that across England and Wales, one in four primary schools has no male teacher and 80 percent have fewer than three.

The report warns that "father absence" is linked to higher rates of teenage crime, pregnancy and disadvantage and states that the human, social and financial costs of this shortage of male role models are “devastating” for children and adults alike.

The CSJ report has sparked a fierce debate, with some arguing that it is no business of politicians to meddle in the personal family choices people make.

Others are suggesting that rising family breakdown is just a modern process, an inevitable trait of human advancement, and some believe family instability doesn’t matter and isn't linked to any of society's ills.

What ever the case as the Left and the Right argue about the shape of the perfect family and the role of the state, I'm remembering an old African proverb.

It resonates above the din of modern politics - "IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO RAISE A CHILD".

And any village includes plenty of men, plenty of women, as well as plenty of young people and old people all living together, interacting and caring.