A family can be described simply as a group of individuals who share a common ancestry. The family is considered as one of the fundamental groups in society, which normally consists of parents and their children (Kiernan 1988, p303). The same thing that is happening to the family structure in many western countries is also happening in Britain. To many people, the families of the past were far more superior to the families of today. They were also a lot happier and stable than they are now. Children had a stable environment where they could develop socially, mentally and physically without a problem (Easton, 2007). There was a time when divorce cases and the issue of illegitimate children were almost unheard of. The twentieth and twenty first centuries have seen the family structure that was generally characterised by two parents and their children going substantive changes (McRae 1999, p46).
However, nowadays, divorce and cases of illegitimate children abound in the British family structure. Gone are the days when all children enjoyed growing up in all-inclusive families, where the roles of the mother and the father were well defined. Such a family structure enabled children to develop properly in both their personal and social lives. The rate of single parenthood went up from 18% to 29% of all families from 1971 to 2002. A recent research shows that divorce cases in Britain are at all time high. The research indicates that for every three marriages that take place, there are two divorces (Li and Mumford 2009, p647). This is the highest divorce rate in the whole of Europe. The UK also has the highest number of single parents in Europe, with a quarter of all children living with their single mothers. Ford and Miller (1997, p67) capture the single parent situation perfectly when they argue that there is a growing acceptance that lone parenthood is a new stage in the family life cycle and not something separate from whatever is the norm. Forms of Families in the UK and their Influence on Children Most sociological views insist that the family is the most basic structure where the child can grow and develop normally. The main task of the family is to provide protection against the many evils of the world. However, many sociologists observe that the protective role of the family has slowly diminished over the years and instead new fulfilment roles have taken over. Traditionally, there were two types of family in the UK: nuclear and the extended family. The nuclear family is composed of the parents and their children. However, the extended family is much larger than the nuclear one. It includes the parents, children, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Today family forms have diversified in line with the changing face of family structures (Sternberg and Grigorenko 1997, p45). In the UK, the common forms of families are large families, single parent families, only child families, blended families, gay and lesbian parent families,