Is UK a Lonely Society?

Is the United Kingdom evolving into a nation of loners?� (Anthony Giddens). Discuss this question with regard to recent trends in family forms……..

Is the UK a Lonely Society?

The basic unit in any society is the family. This is one aspect that has always been shared across all cultures despite geographical differences. The single fact that the composition of a family is universal shows the importance that human race attaches to this basic unit. The progress that is attributed to any society is stemmed on the values as well as the ethics that are present within a society at a specific period in time. This is the same reason why most governments try to make the family stable as it consequently reflects that stability of society. The satisfying life that society members live has been attributed to the ethical and financial aspect of a family and how it has organized itself to ensure existence of harmony. When enacting and implementing legislation and polices respectively, government’s amongst other things consider the family and how the policies will effect the basic unit of society. This is what has been referred to as the politics of a life as Anthony Giddens once posited thus:
“…While emancipator politics is a politics of life chances, life politics is a politics of lifestyle. Life politics is the politics of reflexively mobilized order-the system of late modernity-which, on an individual and collective level, has radically altered the existential parameters of social activity. It is a politics of self-actualization in a reflexively ordered environment, where that reflexivity links self and body to systems of global scope…Life politics concerns political issues which flow from processes of self-actualization in post-traditional context, while globalizing influences intrude deeply into the reflexive project of the self, and conversely where processes of self-realization influence global strategies…[1]
With the society ever changing, it has become apparent that the family is facing challenges. In the UK in particular, family as the basic unit of society is being considered as obsolete. One of the factors bringing this idea is the concept of modernization. This concept has brought with it female emancipation and as a result increased competition amongst the genders. As a result more focus has been directed to towards achieving financial or professional satisfaction at the expense of the family. This has made the society in UK to be considered as a ‘lonely’[2] society as people tend to keep to themselves as a way of establishing independence[3]. This allegation seems alarming, but is it the case? Has the UK society reached a point where it can be considered as a very lonely society or is this merely a conception of a delusional public? This paper will try to analyze the situation in a bid to make a comprehensive and independent conclusion on the truth of this matter.
In the UK today, there are great changes being witnessed in the family life. The UK society has been accused of being lonely but in a constant state of denial on the matter. Griffin (2010) states that:
“…Although many of us experience loneliness at one time or another, it is often overlooked or     dismissed. Because our society prides itself on self-reliance, loneliness might carry a stigma for people who admit to it. This is both paradoxical and pernicious: if loneliness is transient, we simply accept it as part of life, but we have a deep dread of being lonely for the long haul Loneliness might accompany depression or another psychological illness, but it has its own set of characteristics that have specific implications for our mental, physical and societal health…[4]
The adults have been witnessed to have a tendency of living their lives in an isolated manner. Some have decided to raise their children independently while some have decided not to have children at all. According to The Independent Family Policy Studies Centre, the society in UK has evolved fundamentally with most people preferring to have few children[5]. Additionally it has been reported that there are fewer marriages and the rate of divorce is also going up. To add onto this, it has been found out by the report that the number of people living solo lives has increased and that partnerships and marriages are being considered fragile as compared to earlier years[6].  The report further posits that even though the UK government [which leads in creation of policy development on marriage and parenting] has taken extra measure to develop marriage and parenting policies, it should also realize that there is the existence of family life in a contemporary way[7]. Additionally the government [according to the report] due to the turn of events, should begin putting in place changes that will address the effects occasioned to society due to these changes as it is seen to affect the lives of children as well as affecting adult relationships [marriages] as well as affecting the whole society.
The concept of the UK being a loner society has been supported by the fact that in the UK the number of households living solo stands at 6.5 million or a percentage of 28%[8]. This represents a trebled percentage compared to forty years ago. It is also estimated that almost a quarter of the number of women born from 1973 are staring in the possibility of remaining childless by the time reach forty five years of age[9]. If compared to 1943 [where the statistics were one in every ten women] the statistics currently seem alarming. Many women prefer to have children at a later age [it is averaged at 29 years as opposed to 26 years] currently as compared to 1970; in fact they are even choosing to have fewer children[10]. This has been seen to be way below the required 2.1 children per person in order to maintain the population [by 1990 the UK had a rate 1.73 children per person]. If compared to the EU countries the number projected by UK is extremely low[11].
The number of lone parents has also trebled in the last two decades [as well as the number of cohabiting couples[12]]. It is estimated that 21% of children live in households that are led by a single parent [mothers mostly]. This number has tripled the number that was in place in 1972 [it was 7%][13]. In 1971, the number of children who lived in such families was one million therein, with just over 500,000 single parents[14]. The number of single mothers [those that have never been married] in 1997 was 42% as compared to 24% in 1984. This group of single mothers has ended up being referred to as ‘teenager mothers[15].’
The rise in the number of single mothers [and hence lonely societies] has been attributed to a rise in the number of women who are educated. Additionally it is attributed to women who have decided to live alone, work from home and who have decided to give parenthood a shot for the first time at an old age of 50 years. These women have been said to be tired of the work environment where they purport absence of flexibility [personal flexibility] in their work environments or the big corporations they work for[16]. They consequently set up their businesses and end up becoming entrepreneurs in the current economy [this was a futuristic program in 2009][17].
Technological innovations seem to also further the idea of the UK slowly moving into a lonely culture. The use of the internet for instance speaks for itself in this perspective. It has increased the number of people who work from the comfort of their homes as compared to some decades ago when a person had to travel to a central office to carry out their official duties. This has been transferred to the children who spend most of their time in their bedrooms playing video games [as compared to when children would meet together in a playground and enjoy a game of soccer][18]. The introduction of television [cheap T.V. that is] is also another factor that has been used to further this claim[19]. Most people are of the idea that the introduction of pay TV in the children’s bedrooms has served to cut ties with the outside world as the children do not discern the need to interact with the outside world.
The thoughts presented above can however be refuted and in fact be regarded as mere speculation. Importance is still attached to marriage institution as the fundamental wedding vows have not changed. Krier  et al (2006) expressed the importance of the marriage institution and have shown that couples place a lot of importance on their wedding vows hence “…With all my worldly goods I thee endow..[20]” they have said that marriage institution is and will always be the basic unit of society.
Credible reports have served to show that while the rate of family breakups are indeed alarming, they do not necessarily mean that the UK is turning into a lonely society; in fact it is the opposite. A report released in 2009 by the Family and Parenting Institute shows that indeed divorce rates appear to be on the decline. Furthermore the report shows that marriage is still considered as the most common type or form of partnership.
Marriages in the UK have maintained their status as the most common type of partnership. The report posits that in Great Britain in the year 2006, more than 50% of the men and 50% of the women in UK were married[21]. The report concurs though that the number of marriages in an annual basis has been low by the time of the compilation of the report in 2005. However, the report states that if the current trend continues, then the number of women who have never been married will equal the number of women married by the year 2031. However, this is premised on the fact that the factors remain constant. Therefore this bias still tilts the favor towards marriage institutions to prevail and hence refute the claim that the UK is slowly becoming a lonely society.
The proponents of the debate that UK is becoming a lonely society base their arguments on the fact that more women are concerned with economic activities and therefore they shun family life. However, the report refutes this. While the report accepts the fact that more mothers are becoming more engaged in economic activities [the employment of mothers according to the report has increased threefold] it still shows that mothers are still maintaining their responsibility towards their households as well as ensuring that they do not abhor their domestic responsibilities. In addition to these, the women according to the report do spend considerable amount of time together with the family as compared to other periods. The report sates that 75% of the mothers who are employed have been also tasked with ensuring that their children are well taken care of. Additionally it shows that the mothers are spending much time with their families [especially children] than they did back in 1972[22]. In fact by 2005 more than 50% of the parents involved themselves actively in their children’s school life as compared to only 29% of the parents in 2001.
Additionally, the fathers are also increasing their presence in the family as statistics show that fathers are spending 25 minutes more with their children in the year 2000 as compared to only 8 minutes in 1974.
Therefore there are a lot of fallacies represented by people who have formed the concept [albeit in their heads] that the UK society is becoming a lonely society. The truth of the matter is that, as society changes so do the perception. Different times have got different impacts in the society and this should not be confused to mean that society [the UK society that is] is becoming a lonely society.

 

Annotated Bibliography

Hunt, S, & National Family & Parenting Institute (Great Britain), ‘Family Trends: British Families Since 1950.’ Family & Parenting Institute, viewed 7th May 7, 2012 http://familyandparenting.web-platform.net/familyTrends

This is an online article by the Family and Parenting Institute. It was written after ten        years of the institute that aims to help families improve how their children develop        through betterment of the family environment. This article is important to the researcher         because it brings to light the circumstances that have been pointed out to consider Britain as a lonely society. It is also important to the researcher because it exemplifies the       position taken by fathers currently towards raising of the family and hence helpful in         refuting the claim that Britain is turning into a lonely society. The article will help the             researcher to also examine the country’s demographics from 1970 the time of the articles       publication in a bid to make a comparison on the statistics and draw a valid conclusion.         The article is also important because it focuses on motherhood and how mothers have             increased their presence in their families despite their recent role in building of the             economy. The article states that mothers have been employed in great number in the          current period as compared to some few decades ago; however, their role in the family           has been maintained and in fact their role has seen increased responsibilities in the family   circle. The article also exemplifies the truth on the rate of divorce cases in the UK and             helps in refuting claims that the marriage institution is slowly becoming obsolete as            posited by the proponents of the position that the UK is becoming a lonely society. The    article is also important because it shows the shift in the relationship between the children       and the parents as compared to several decades ago. It shows that parents are becoming       more engaged in the life of their children. It also concurs with the position forwarded that      women are getting children later in life but this can be drawn to still construe that since     women are still rearing children nevertheless, it does not mean that UK is a lonely   society. It is clear from the information in this article that the researcher will rely heavily      on this article to refute the claim that UK is slowly becoming a lonely society.

Norton, C., ‘In Ten Years, Britain will be a Nation of Loners’. The Independent.  Monday 18th October 1999, viewed 7th May 2012 http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/in-ten-years-britain-will-be-a-nation-of-loners-743039.html

This newspaper excerpt will be used by the researcher to further the claim that the UK is   turning into a lonely society. The researcher will rely on this newspaper article because it contained the relevant statistics that posit the argument that UK is slowly becoming a   nation of loners. The article was written in 1999 and by then the trend was pointing    towards the UK becoming a nation of loners. It is the main document that the researcher   will rely on in furthering the claim that the UK is becoming a lonely society.

Donnelly, L., ‘Working Mothers Spend 81 Minutes a day looking after their Children,’ The Telegraph, 2011, Viewed 7th May 2012 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/8408503/Working-mothers-spend-81-minutes-a-day-looking-after-their-children.html
This article is important to the researcher because it will be used to further the idea that     even though mothers have currently been involved in the economy, they still spend much                       time with their families as opposed to the position being forwarded by proponents that the      UK is becoming a lonely society.

Jardine, C., ‘Are we Losing Our Children to Television?’ The Telegraph. 2008. Viewed 7th May 7, 2012 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/features/3635318/Are-we-losing-our-children-to-television.html

This article talks about the current situation of technology and its effect to children. It       shows the trend currently of children being glued to their TV screens and therefore being                considered loners. This is one of the concepts that have been used to further the idea that      the UK is becoming a lonely society.

Wilson, B., ‘Estimating Cohabiting Population’, 2007, viewed 7th May 7, 2012 http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/family-demography/cohabitation-estimates–england-and-wales/cohabitation-estimates/estimating-the-cohabiting-population.pdf

This article talks about the current state of relationships in Britain. It shows that     cohabitation is on the rise and therefore helps to strengthen the argument that Britain is           slowly becoming a nation of loners as the marriage institution is slowly being wiped out.          The article shows that most of the cohabitation does not end up in marriage but rather in          broken relationships and hence single parenthood. This consequently contributes to the             UK being a lonely nation.

Woodward, W., ‘Are we turning into a nation of loners? Marriage is down, and so is childbirth. But divorce is up, along with single-person living. This is Britain today,’ The Guardian, 2000, March 2007, viewed &7th May 2012 http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2000/mar/27/willwoodward

This article talks about the current situation of the UK society. It shows that the marriage institution is down, as well as child birth. The article also shows that the divorce rate is going up as well as the number of people who live solo in the UK society. The article                       says that these are some of the reasons that the UK society is being considered as a lonely   society.

Griffin, J., The Lonely Society? Mental Health Foundation, 2010, viewed 7th May 2012 http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/content/assets/PDF/publications/the_lonely_society_report.pdf

This article is important because it tries to show why the UK society is being considered   a lonely society. The author has collected some information on the facts being presented      and compares them to find out if the UK is truly becoming a lonely society. The article is         important because it will also help the researcher form an independent decision on the   same issue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

Articles

Griffin, J. The Lonely Society? Mental Health Foundation. 2010, viewed 7th May 2012 http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/content/assets/PDF/publications/the_lonely_society_report.pdf

Wilson, Ben. Estimating Cohabiting Population. 2007, viewed 7th May 7, 2012 http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/family-demography/cohabitation-estimates–england-and-wales/cohabitation-estimates/estimating-the-cohabiting-population.pdf

 

Books
Giddens, A, ‘Modernity and self-identity. Self and society in the late modern age’ Cambridge (Polity Press), 1991, p214

Krier, J et al, ‘Property’. Aspen Publishers. 2006. p335

Websites
British Singled out as a lonely Nation.). BBC News World Edition. 27th Monday March 2000, Viewed 7th May 7, 2012 http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/692150.stm#HURRICANE

Donnelly, Laura. (2011). Working Mothers Spend 81 Minutes a day looking after their Children. The telegraph. 2011, Viewed 7th May 2012 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/8408503/Working-mothers-spend-81-minutes-a-day-looking-after-their-children.html

Hunt, S, & National Family & Parenting Institute (Great Britain), ‘Family Trends: British Families Since 1950.’ Family & Parenting Institute, viewed 7th May 7, 2012 http://familyandparenting.web-platform.net/familyTrends

Jardine, C. Are we Losing Our Children to Television? The Telegraph. 2008. Viewed 7th May 7, 2012 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/features/3635318/Are-we-losing-our-children-to-television.html

Norton, C. In Ten Years, Britain will be a Nation of Loners. The Independent.  Monday 18th October 1999, viewed 7th May 2012 http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/in-ten-years-britain-will-be-a-nation-of-loners-743039.html

Periera, Hilary. Business Mums. iVillage.co.uk. N.d, viewed 7th May

 http://www.ivillage.co.uk/business-mums/81117

Schmidt, Kara. The Effects of Modern Technology on Children. N.d, viewed 7th May 7, 2012http://www.ehow.co.uk/info_7934548_effects-modern-technology-children.html

 Woodward, W. Are we turning into a nation of loners? Marriage is down, and so is childbirth. But divorce is up, along with single-person living. This is Britain today. The Guardian, 2000, March 2007, viewed &7th May 2012 http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2000/mar/27/willwoodward



[1] Giddens, A, ‘Modernity and self-identity. Self and society in the late modern age’ Cambridge (Polity Press), 1991, p214

[2] Norton, C., ‘In Ten Years, Britain will be a Nation of Loners,’ The Independent.  Monday 18th October 1999, viewed 7th May 2012 http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/in-ten-years-britain-will-be-a-nation-of-loners-743039.html

[3] ‘British singled out as a lonely Nation’. BBC News World Edition. 27th Monday March 2000, Viewed 7th May 7, 2012 http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/692150.stm#HURRICANE

[4] Griffin, J. The Lonely Society? Mental Health Foundation. 2010, viewed 7th May 2012 http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/content/assets/PDF/publications/the_lonely_society_report.pdf

[5]Woodward, W., ‘Are we turning into a nation of loners? Marriage is down, and so is childbirth. But divorce is up, along with single-person living. This is Britain today,’ The Guardian, 2000, March 2007, viewed &7th May 2012 http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2000/mar/27/willwoodward

[6] ibid

[7] ibid

[8] Supra n.2

[9] ibid

[10] ibid

[11] ibid

[13] ibid

[14] ibid

[15] ibid

[16] Periera, H., ‘Business Mums,’ iVillage.co.uk. (n.d), viewed 7th May

http://www.ivillage.co.uk/business-mums/81117

[17] ibid

[18] Jardine, C., ‘Are we Losing Our Children to Television?’ The Telegraph. 2008. Viewed 7th May 7, 2012 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/features/3635318/Are-we-losing-our-children-to-television.html

[19] Schmidt, K., ‘The Effects of Modern Technology on Children’. N.d, viewed 7th May 7, 2012http://www.ehow.co.uk/info_7934548_effects-modern-technology-children.html

[20] Krier, J et al, ‘Property’. Aspen Publishers. 2006. p335

[21] Hunt, S, & National Family & Parenting Institute (Great Britain)., ‘Family Trends: British Families Since 1950.’ Family & Parenting Institute, viewed 7th May 7, 2012 http://familyandparenting.web-platform.net/familyTrends

[22] Donnelly, L., ‘Working Mothers Spend 81 Minutes a day looking after their Children’, The telegraph, 2011, Viewed 7th May 2012 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/8408503/Working-mothers-spend-81-minutes-a-day-looking-after-their-children.html

 

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