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What does a modern family look like?

What is a ‘normal family’, Lisa Belkin probed in a new study published in the New York Times. Statistically, it is no longer a mother, a father and their biological children living together under one roof, and certainly not with Dad going off to work and Mom staying home. “Although perception and acceptance often lag behind reality, there is evidence that a new definition of family — while far from universally accepted — is emerging”.

The nuclear family has certainly expired, but it is not yet clear what has been left in its wake. Sure single parent families are more prevalent and more gay and lesbian couples raising children. More single women are having children without a male partner to help raise them and more people are living together without getting married – big deal. But there are also worrying changes afoot.

As the face of the modern family changes, so too is the way families interact with each other. According to new research modern technology is significantly impacting how modern families interact, with almost nine in ten parents saying gadgets get in the way of their time together as a family.

A huge 86 per cent admit there are times when everyone is at home, but separately watching TV or playing on their phone or computers. Seven in ten mums and dads even said there have been occasions where they could have been playing or spending time with their children, but were busy on their phone or tablet instead.

More than half also struggle to keep the dinner table a tech-free zone, often having meals where at least one member of the family is on their phone. The research of 2,000 parents, commissioned by Discover Ferries, the body representing ferry operators and conducted by OnePoll, also found the average family spends just three weeks of real quality time together each year – and just 36 minutes on the average weekday.

It seems a prominent split between ‘family time’ and ‘quality family time’ is emerging which could have worrying consequences on society. As the make-up of families change so too are our interactions as a family unit. The welcome change from “nuclear” seems to have been met with an un-welcomed change to “robotic”.

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