The basic argument in this report is that the postwar welfare state in Britain set out to build public support around stable, lifelong marriage and the nuclear family. But the state itself then helped to undermine marriage by its own increasing emphasis on motherhood, including supports for single parents. Public policy also ignored the extent to which nuclear families were built on a foundation of wider kinship ties, which themselves needed acknowledgement and support.
The authors argue that the best way to restore family to the centre of social policy now might be to give much greater recognition to the principle of descent, and in particular to the continuing relationships between parents and adult children. These are the core of kinship networks in any society, and they are the ties which most deserve public support and most repay it by helping to sustain community cohesion. It is important to note that this is not the same thing as giving extended families primary responsibility (which they have in many countries) for basic individual security. It is more a matter of finding ways of rendering state support more compatible with, and less undermining of, family structures.