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Less freedom but more intimacy

FARFROM being dead, the family is alive and kicking and becoming more open and democratic, according to a new report.

But it is also becoming more anxiety-ridden. Today's parents worry more about their children than their parents once worried about them, resulting in a culture of constant supervision that means some of the independence enjoyed by previous generations is being lost.

The report was prepared by the Future Foundation think-tank and commissioned by the Boarding Education Alliance. The findings, based on focus groups and previous research - some by the foundation - cover a cross-section of families, not just those with children at boarding schools.

They suggest that the nuclear family unit now operates as a partnership or team.

There has been a perceived decline in taboo topics, an increase in intimacy, and parents and children often share tastes in music and television programmes. Discussion and persuasion are replacing "because I say so".

Parents are also taking a more active part in their children's school lives. "Now we are trying to turn our kids into geniuses - we are involved," one parent said.

Although just as many children find their mother at home when they get home from school as their parents did as children, nearly four in ten parents said they now ate together as a family less often.

Improvements in health and a falling birth rate are changing the modern extended family. Children are now much more likely to have grandparents and even great grandparents as active family members. The modern extended family now includes friends and other contacts, such as boarding schools, according to the BEA.

Technology is strengthening family ties and will continue to do so. The telephone already plays the predominant role in maintaining family contact. Soon, says the report, checking for e-mail messages will become another routine way of family communication.

'The Millennial Family', pound;3, from Leslie Curtis at Cohn amp; Wolfe, 0171 331 5352.

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