There's been much made of the ongoing pressure on families' finances in recent years. Today, our annual study of more than 6,000 people finds that families are really feeling the strain on their relationships over money, running a home and trying to achieve a good work-life balance. In fact, we found that parents are much more likely to cite money worries as one of the top three strains on relationships (61%) than those without children (47%).
Published today by Relate, Relationships Scotland and Marriage Care, The Way We Are Now 2015 is one of the largest studies of its kind, providing a window into some of the most important and personal areas of our lives.
And what we've found is that parents of young children are particularly feeling the pressure. One in three parents of under-fives said childcare and bringing up children was one of the top three strains on relationships; and they were also more likely than those without children to put household chores and family rows as top strains. When it comes to work-life balance, 40% of working parents with children under five agreed there's an assumption that the most productive employees put work before family life, compared with 33% of people without children.
As the nation's leading relationships charity, Relate is especially concerned about how people's relationships are faring through these difficult times. The study found that parents with children under five were more likely to report arguing with their partner than those without children; never or rarely engaging in outside interests together; and they were much more likely to say they hadn't had sex in the last month. As well as these results, we also see through our everyday work how these issues play out in homes across the country.
This paints a pretty depressing picture. But what can be done to help? Of course Relate, Relationships Scotland and Marriage Care are well placed to offer information, support and counselling - we make it our business to help people build strong relationships that go the distance in good times and bad, and we're always here when there's a crisis, too. But tackling the root causes of these issues must be a priority for everyone. In 2014 the UK Government introduced a 'Family Test' for public policy, encouraging policy makers to think about the impact of new policies on families like those who took part in our study. Making sure that the Test is robustly applied is an important step towards recognising people's needs and working out how to best address them.
As Relate's new CEO I will make sure this report is used to continue to build our understanding of what people want and need from relationship support. And we are getting a very clear message from the stats - families need more help to get the balance between work and family life right.
Whether we are in a family or not, relationships are at the heart of everything we do, as individuals and as a society. They are too important to be ignored. Relationships, friendships and family life provide the bedrock upon which all else grows. They are the fabric of a good society. Relate has a pivotal role to play in raising awareness of this and I will be striving to ensure that we continue to champion the importance of relationships in my new role.
I am extremely passionate about this. I want to see family life and relationships moving up the political agenda and I will do all I can to ensure this happens.
To see a full breakdown of statistics affecting relationships and family life, please go to: www.relate.org.uk/waywearenow