The free dictionary by farlex was my port of call when deciphering what 'family' really means and it came back with the following: "a locally independent, organised crime unit, as of the Cosa Nostra." This skewed the direction of my article dramatically and caused me to return with the fairly obvious conclusion that being raised by mobsters probably wasn't terribly good for children.
In reality, it is enormously difficult to define the fundamental values of a society that is beginning to catch up with how people really live. During the fifties and sixties and before, when husbands and wives were forced to stay together as it was considered socially unacceptable to get divorced, were there no homosexuals? Or was it merely the constraints of society that saw loveless families exist all under the idealised illusion of 'husband and wife'. In reality, families are rarely constructed in the image of the Daily Mail's perpetuated norm - instead they are built out of the circumstances surrounding the birth of child or even when two people come together . These circumstances can lead to a variety of situations and it is often the case that children might experience a more nurturing childhood with parents who aren't biologically related to them but to pose the question to adoptive guardians of whether, after say twenty years, they consider their adopted son or daughter to be their own you'd be inviting a rather frosty response.
The point I am making is that children don't lose out because they don't have a mother and father who are together, they lose out because they've not been raised correctly in the appropriate nurturing environment. There are obvious social factors involved, and children from "stable" families, as they are often called, can - and often do - end up in dire situations due to terrible parental guidance. The rallying calls to return to so-called 'traditional family values' are echoed by Daily Mail readers and wife beaters - it is entirely prehistoric and out of touch and has no basis in evidence. Great parents can come in all shapes, sizes, genders and colours. They key to good parenting is providing support and building a relationship of trust and respect. Using societal pressure, or indeed financial incentives or tax breaks, to encourage parents to stay together will not achieve anything.
During the general election campaign David Cameron hopped forward with his pledge to offer married couples a marriage tax allowance - yes, this is the same man who cut the child tax allowance as he felt middle class families didn't need this extra benefit. Yet, he feels that a marriage tax allowance is going to eradicate all poverty and save Britain from inevitable social degradation. I'm sure the marriage tax allowance is pretty much universally popular with the Range Rover driving yummy mummies in Witney who need the tax cut to continue their Jumba lessons. Instead, if the want a little extra income they should stop screwing their gym instructor and get a job. IDS likes to tell us work must pay, unless your husband is disgustingly rich and you retain a little bit of paper that proves you're both madly in love and must stay together forever.
It would be naïve to dismiss marriage as no longer important but in terms of raising a child, some of the most intelligent, successful and emotionally stable people I know don't come from what Daily Mail readers would deem a conventional unit - some may be all the better for it.