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Valuing families on International Day of Families

Valuing families – the heart of our communities - on International Day of Families

15 May 2014

Families are the heart of our communities and our country and its important to acknowledge the important role they play especially on International Day of Families (Thursday 15 May).

Families Commissioner Belinda Milnes says, “We have huge expectations of families. We rely on families and whānau to nurture and raise thriving children, care for the young, the old, the sick or disabled, teach critical life skills, pass on knowledge, values and identity, and support family members financially.”

“All too often we take the role of families for granted. We collect and use information about individuals and households to make decisions but we know less about what works for the reality of families today. We need decision-makers to ask different questions and to apply a family lens to their thinking and planning.”

Today our sense of family has changed significantly from the traditional nuclear family. Family composition has changed, including age structures, household makeup, with multiple ethnicities. Stepfamilies now make up about 10% of all families.

“But what matters most is the important role that families and whānau play – not the shape they take.”

A report by the Families Commission, to be released on 30 June, proposes a draft framework to measure and monitor the well-being of families and whānau, to track trends, aspirations, and attitudes over time.

The Families Commissioner says, “Complex social issues deserve quality evidence to enable better informed decisions to be made. The Commission’s role is to increase the use of evidence so decision-makers know what works and what doesn’t for families and whānau.

“Families are at the heart of the well-being of our communities, country and economy. Today, and every day, we need to enable them to be the best they can.”

Background information

Summary of key changes to families

There have been major changes to families since the early 1970s - some from external pressures, but others come from families themselves:

- less homogeneous - less than 40 years ago, by the age of 25, 85% of women were married with 2 children, went onto have 2 more, and probably starting home ownership

- fewer children – average of 2 now compared with 4.3 in 1961

- greater mobility/ more spread – within cities, across the country and overseas

- delayed parenting - median age of having a first baby is 30 years

- sandwich generation – caring for young children and old parents

- composition of families

more couple and single person households

by mid 2020 11% of households will be people living alone

step families make up about 1 in 10 families with children in NZ

up to a third of New Zealand children are spending some time living with a stepparent


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