An annual report released this week shows that Britons are increasingly more tolerant towards gays and lesbians.

The 24th British Social Attitudes Report describes the state of public attitudes towards, among other things, relationships, parenting, gender roles and prejudice.

The report found that 32% of people believe that homosexuality was always or mostly wrong. This compared to 1987, when a massive 75% of people polled felt that homosexuality was wrong.

According to the authors, the last two decades have seen huge changes in family life. The number of single-person households has increased, as has cohabitation. And marriage rates are at their lowest since 1986.

The report confirms that people’s views on marriage are more liberal than they were 20 years ago. But it also finds that more ‘traditional’ attitudes persist when it comes to the kind of household seen as appropriate for raising children.

Four in ten people (42%) believe that a gay male couple are not as capable of being good parents as a man and a woman. Only three in ten people (31%) see a gay family as being as capable as a straight one.

“The heterosexual married couple is no longer central as a social norm,” commented Professor Simon Duncan, a co-author of the report. “But views are more traditional when it comes to bringing up children. Children seem to hold a particular position in people’s attitudes to family life. When they are involved, alternative family arrangements are seen as less acceptable,”

When it comes to gender roles, men have a less traditional view than they did 20 years ago. Yet according to the report, women are still far more likely than men to do the household chores. What’s more, men tend to say that they do more housework than women think they do.

In 1989, a third of men (32%) agreed with the statement ‘a man’s job is to earn money; a woman’s job is to look after the home and family’. This proportion has nearly halved, standing now at 17%.

Men and women disagree when it comes to saying how much of the housework they do. Two-thirds of women (68%) say that in their relationship they usually or always do the cleaning – but only 54% of men say this of their partner.

Professor Rosemary Crompton, another of the study’s co-authors, added that, “People’s attitudes towards gender roles have clearly changed, but their behaviour lags behind. This is important – a gap between a person’s views about gender roles and what actually happens in their own home seems to lead to greater stress at home, for women at least.”

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