Survey reveals changing understanding of the family unit

The family norm used to be a married couple with two children but a new YouGov survey underscores the increasingly flexible definitions of what constitutes a family today.

When asked what they consider to be a family, almost all those surveyed agreed that a married couple with children fitted this definition.

However, most agree that other set-ups can also be defined as family.

Nearly nine in 10 (89%) said an unmarried couple with children counted as a family, followed by a lone parent with at least one child (87%).

Nearly three-quarters (72%) said they would consider a married couple without children as a family, as well as siblings living together (71%).

Over two-thirds (70%) said same-sex couples in civil partnerships with children were a family.

However, the survey found a broader view of family among a sizable group of people who are happy to apply the term 'family' to people who have strong emotional bonds or live together.

More than half (52%) of people consider an unmarried couple without children to be a family, while 47% of people consider a same-sex couple in a civil partnership to be a family.

Over a third (39%) of people consider any two or more people who care for each other to be a family.

Views differed little between religious people and the general population, with 67% of Anglicans, 66% of Catholics and 72% of Jewish people regarding a same-sex couple in a civil partnership with children as a family.

However, the survey suggests most people still prefer a father and a mother for children. When asked whether more single women having children without a male partner is good or bad, 30% said neither but 58% said it was bad.

Views were more mixed when it came to more gay and lesbian couples raising children, with 24% saying this was good, 31% saying bad, and 39% saying neither.

The survey also found that although most think churches are welcoming of married and single people, only 45% said they were welcoming to divorced people, and just 21% said they were welcoming to gay, lesbian and bisexual people.

The survey was commissioned by Westminster Faith Debates and asked the views of over 4,000 UK adults.