Traditional family structure on the wane

Family is still a top priority for Greeks. According to recent statistics, some 95.7 percent of European citizens and 99.4 percent of Greeks consider family a very important part of their lives. But in the last 30 years, the family in Greece has changed. The number of marriages has dropped 23 percent, while the number of divorces and out-of-wedlock births have both quadrupled. At the same time, the number of married couples who choose not to have children and the number of couples who choose not to marry have also increased. This information seems to contradict the still-strong Greek tradition of family. That’s not the case, social scientists say. Family values have not disintegrated. They have changed, as have the roles of the sexes in partnerships. This has created a new family structure which Greek society is having difficulty accepting and the state is finding hard to help. The fragile «new families» often live on the fringes of society, without any help, even though they are becoming common in Greek society. In 30 years, these new family units have increased from 11 percent to 28 percent of families with children – who are most often headed by divorced, widowed or unwed mothers and, to a far lesser extent, widowed or divorced fathers. Some 32 percent of these families live on or below the poverty line. Social services could help these families escape from dire economic straits, social isolation and the psychological insecurity brought on by their non-conformity. A legal framework could also secure rights and a proper upbringing for children in new, non-traditional families.