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Family values, in the political debate of industrialized nations, are political and social beliefs that regard the nuclear family as the essential unit of society. Other family values stress the importance of extended family, the high value of education and 'respectable marriage'. Familialism is the ideology that promotes the family and its values as an institution.
Although the phrase family values is vague and has shifting meanings, it is most often associated[by whom?] with social and religious conservatives. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, the term has been frequently used in political debates claiming that the world has seen a decline in family values since the end of the Second World War.
In 1998, a Harris survey found that:
The survey noted that 93% of all women thought that society should value all types of families (Harris did not publish the responses for men).
Since 1980, the Republican Party has used the issue of family values to attract socially conservative voters. While "family values" remains an amorphous concept, social conservatives usually understand the term to include some combination of the following principles (also referenced in the 2004 Republican Party platform):
Social and religious conservatives often use the term "family values" to promote conservative ideology that supports traditional morality or Christian values. Some American conservative Christians see their religion as the source of morality and consider the nuclear family to be an essential element in society. For example, "The American Family Association exists to motivate and equip citizens to change the culture to reflect Biblical truth and traditional family values." These groups variously oppose abortion, pornography, pre-marital sex, polygamy, homosexuality, certain aspects of feminism, cohabitation, separation of church and state, legalization of recreational drugs, and depictions of sexuality in the media.
Although the term "family values" remains a core issue for the Republican Party, in recent years the Democratic Party has also used the term, though differing in its definition. For example, in his acceptance speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, John Kerry said "it is time for those who talk about family values to start valuing families". The Democratic Party definitions of family values often include items that specifically target working families such as support of:
Other liberals have used the phrase to support such values as family planning, affordable child-care, and maternity leave. For example, groups such as People For the American Way, Planned Parenthood, and Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays have attempted to define the concept in a way that promotes the acceptance of single-parent families, same-sex monogamous relationships and marriage. This understanding of family values does not promote conservative morality, instead focusing on encouraging and supporting alternative family structures, access to contraception and abortion, increasing the minimum wage, sex education, childcare, and parent-friendly employment laws, which provide for maternity leave and leave for medical emergencies involving children.
While conservative sexual ethics focus on preventing premarital or non-procreative sex, liberal sexual ethics are typically directed rather towards consent, regardless of whether or not the partners are married.
The Family First Party originally contested the 2002 South Australian state election, where former Assemblies of God pastor Dr Andrew Evans won one of the eleven seats in the 22-seat South Australian Legislative Council on 4 percent of the state-wide vote. The party made their federal debut at the 2004 general election, electing Steve Fielding on 2 percent of the Victorian vote in the Australian Senate, out of six Victorian senate seats up for election. Both MPs were able to be elected with Australia's Single Transferable Vote and Group voting ticket system in the upper house. The party opposes abortion, euthanasia, harm reduction, gay adoptions, in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) for gay couples and gay civil unions It supports drug prevention, zero tolerance, rehabilitation, and avoidance.
In the 2007 Australian election, Family First came under fire for giving preferences in some areas to the Liberty and Democracy Party, a libertarian party that supports legalization of incest, gay marriage, and drug use.
Family values was a recurrent theme in the Conservative government of John Major. His Back to Basics initiative became the subject of ridicule after the party was affected by a series of sleaze scandals. John Major himself, the architect of the policy, was subsequently found to have had an affair with Edwina Currie. Family Values have been revived by the current Conservative Party under David Cameron, forming the backbone of his mantra on social responsibility and related policies, demonstrated by his Marriage Tax allowance policy which would provide tax breaks for married couples.
Family values politics reached their apex under the social conservative administration of the Third National Government (1975–84), widely criticised for its populist and social conservative views about abortion and homosexuality. Under the Fourth Labour Government (1984–90), homosexuality was decriminalised and abortion access became easier to obtain.
In the early 1990s, New Zealand reformed its electoral system, replacing the first-past-the-post electoral system with the Mixed Member Proportional system. This provided a particular impetus to the formation of separatist conservative Christian political parties, disgruntled at the Fourth National Government (1990–99), which seemed to embrace bipartisan social liberalism to offset Labour's earlier appeal to social liberal voters. Such parties tried to recruit conservative Christian voters to blunt social liberal legislative reforms, but had meagre success in doing so. During the tenure of Fifth Labour Government (1999–2008), prostitution law reform (2003), same-sex civil unions (2005) and the repeal of laws that permitted parental corporal punishment of children (2007) became law.
At present, Family First New Zealand, a 'non-partisan' social conservative lobby group, operates to try to forestall further legislative reforms such as same-sex marriage and same-sex adoption. In 2005, conservative Christians tried to pre-emptively ban same-sex marriage in New Zealand through alterations to the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, but the bill failed 47 votes to 73 at its first reading. At most, the only durable success such organisations can claim in New Zealand is the continuing criminality of cannabis possession and use under New Zealand's Misuse of Drugs Act 1975.
Federal law of Russian Federation no. 436-FZ of 2010-12-23 "On Protecting Children from Information Harmful to Their Health and Development" lists as information not suitable for children (“18+” rating) information "negating family values and forming disrespect to parents and/or other family members". It does not contain any separate definition of family values.
Singapore's main political party, the People's Action Party, promotes family values intensively. One MP has described the nature of family values in the city-state as "almost Victorian in nature". The Singaporean legal system bans homosexual acts and prescribes harsh penalties for drug trafficking. The Singaporean justice system uses corporal punishment.
The use of family values as a political term dates back to 1976, when it appeared in the Republican Party platform. Later, the phrase became more widespread after Vice President Dan Quayle used it in a speech at the 1992 Republican National Convention. Quayle had also launched a national controversy when he criticized the television program Murphy Brown for a story line that depicted the title character becoming a single mother by choice, citing it as an example of how popular culture contributes to a "poverty of values", saying: "[i]t doesn't help matters when primetime TV has Murphy Brown—a character who supposedly epitomizes today's intelligent, highly paid, professional woman—mocking the importance of fathers, by bearing a child alone, and calling it just another 'lifestyle choice'". Quayle's remarks initiated widespread controversy, and have had a continuing effect on U.S. politics. Stephanie Coontz, a professor of family history and the author of several books and essays about the history of marriage, says that this brief remark by Quayle about Murphy Brown "kicked off more than a decade of outcries against the 'collapse of the family'".
Population studies have found that in 2004 and 2008, liberal-voting ("blue") states have lower rates of divorce and teenage pregnancy than conservative-voting ("red") states. June Carbone, author of Red Families vs. Blue Families, opines that the driving factor is that people in liberal states tend to wait longer before getting married.
A 2002 government survey found that 95% of adult Americans had had premarital sex. This number had risen slightly from the 1950s, when it was nearly 90%. The median age of first premarital sex has dropped in that time from 20.4 to 17.6.