Addressing the Governing Body of the Church in Wales, Dr Barry Morgan stressed that parenting was a serious commitment and that parents needed to work hard to stay together and to spend enough quality time with their children.
He said that school children should also be taught that becoming a parent is a serious commitment rather than just the “mechanics” of pregnancy that are dealt with by sex education and Government policies.
Dr Morgan said it was not a coincidence that children are the most unhappy in countries such as Britain, where the pursuit of individual success and materials is seen as the most important goal in life and where there are high levels of child poverty.
The Archbishop spoke the day after a report said that the UK was one of the worst places in Europe to be a child. The report compared living standards and levels of satisfaction for children across Europe.
He also highlighted the “appalling statistics” that three children are killed every week in the UK by abuse of violence.
"How is it that so many parents can be incapable of parenting a precious and vulnerable child without neglect or abuse?" he said.
"Traditional beliefs have been weakened over recent decades and excessive individualism has filled the void. The quest for personal success and personal happiness is too often gained at the expense of others.
"We may all know the real needs of children, but we frequently refuse to recognise that these often come at a personal cost to ourselves and our own needs and desires – be they compromises in our earning capacity or career development, or commitment to and the need to work at a less than ideal relationship."
Dr Morgan added that he was not advocating a return to the days when mothers had to remain in the home or saying that families should stay together all the time at any cost.
"What I am saying is that we need a huge change in our thinking. Parenthood should not be embarked on lightly. It is the commitment of two people both to one another and to the child."
In the battle to prevent teenage pregnancy, he said that society was failing to deal with the causes and looking only to solve the effects. As evidence he cited the recent proposal to allow TV adverts for contraception to be broadcasted before the 9pm watershed.
"That may help the statistics, but what does it do to teach young people that parenthood is an awesome responsibility that requires both love and self sacrifice from parents committed to the child and to one another?" he said.
"We need to be teaching these basic concepts as well as parent-craft, in our schools from an early age, particularly to those who have not experienced it first hand, and not simply informing them about the mechanics of a sexual relationship and contraception divorced from the basic concepts of love, responsibility and self-respect."