The changing shape of the modern family unit.

The traditional idea of the family is being transformed and the new roles and structure of the family unit need support.

The United Nations has designated 1994 as the Year of the Family.

Big numbers are in attendance at the annual Sligo Park Hotel wedding fair. The event promotes all the trimmings associated with a traditional wedding. According to 1991 census figures, almost 1,330,000 people in Ireland are married. However, there is also increasing evidence of marriage breakdown with over 55,000 respondents describing themselves as separated.

Despite the changing society, around 90 per cent of Irish family are still opting to marry and have a family. Social Studies lecturer and Psychologist John Gaffney believes that a debate is needed on the nature of the family and changes to the family structure in order to make sure news needs.

The focus of debate during the UN Year of the Family will be Family Resources in a Changing World. Sister Anne Harte-Barry, Chairperson of the Sligo International Year of the Family Group, believes that the focus of discussion should be on recognising the different types of families.

Issues such as employment and changing gender roles are impacting on the family structure. Social Studies student at Sligo RTC Barry Deignan points to the cultural revolution in the Irish family over the last 30 years. Different roles have emerged for various family members. Student Yvonne Chambers says that families face many pressures to be the perfect family.

Experts say the primary role of the family, however its structured, is care of their young.

John Gaffney believes there is a need for discussion about notions of control and discipline of children. Sister Dolores of Sligo Lifestart Group says that it is generally acknowledged that parents are the primary and most important educators of their children but there are no supports in place to help them with this important task.

The early years, from birth to five, are the most formative in a person's life.

Rachel Saint-Sevin, who avails of the services provided by the Sligo Lifestart Group, says that her daughter has come on leaps and bounds since engaging in the services. Another service user Paula McGovern says that the group offers people a chance to meet other parents experiencing similar challenges.

This episode of 'Nationwide' was broadcast on 30 January 1993. The presenter is Michael Ryan. The reporter is Eileen Magnier.