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The Pre-Industrial Family

Ralph Houlbrooke traces back the distinctive roots of the modern family.

Georgian family, early 20th centuryHow far back can we trace the distinctive traits of the 'modern' family? This is a question of great interest not only to historians but also to policy-makers and pressure groups concerned with the condition and likely future of the present-day family. Family life as experienced by a growing proportion of the British population has been influenced in the last twenty years by such developments as the wider acceptance of pre-marital sex, the employment of more married women outside the home, a rapidly rising divorce rate, and increasing numbers of one parent families. Some people would like change, or at least certain types of change, to proceed faster; others accept it with varying degrees of complacency; others again fear that the family is under threat.

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