A British judge has warned that family breakdown is as great a threat to society as is terrorism or global warming. It is the "cancer" behind almost every social evil, he has said.
Justice Coleridge blames youth crime, child abuse, drug addiction and binge-drinking on the "meltdown" of relations between parents and children.
AdvertisementIt is "on a scale, depth and breadth which few of us could have imagined even "a decade ago. It is a never-ending carnival of human misery. A ceaseless river of human distress.
His speech to family lawyers Saturday also contained a fierce attack on the "neglect" by successive governments, reports Daily Mail.
The 58-year-old judge, who is married with three grown-up children, said family breakdown was an epidemic affecting all levels of society from the Royal Family down.
"I am not saying every broken family produces dysfunctional children, but I am saying that almost every dysfunctional child is the product of a broken family," he clarified.
The judge, who is in charge of family courts across South-West England, said it was his duty to speak out.
He called on the Government to put the family at the top of its agenda, alongside the economy and the war on terror - and make it "rather more important than taking oaths of allegiance."
He said, "Families are the cells which make up the body of society. If the cells are unhealthy and undernourished, or at worse cancerous and growing haphazard and out of control, in the end, the body succumbs.
"In some of the more heavily populated urban areas, family life is quite frankly in meltdown or completely unrecognisable . . . it is on an epidemic scale. In some areas of the country, family life in the old sense no longer exists."
The judge condemned families with a mother and several absentee fathers.
He said, "Single parents often do a fantastic job, but a great many, perhaps through no fault of their own, do not.
"A large number of families now consist of children being brought up by mothers who have children by a number of different fathers, none of whom take any part in their lives or support or upbringing.
"These are not isolated, one-off cases. They are part of the stock-in-trade of the family courts."
Judge Coleridge has spent the past eight years presiding over cases of divorce, children in care and family break-up.
Last year he supervised courtroom attempts to negotiate a voluntary divorce agreement between Sir Paul McCartney and Heather Mills.
He noted, "Almost all society's ills can be traced directly to the collapse of family life. We all know it. Examine the background of almost every child in the care system or the youth justice system and you will discover a broken family.
"Ditto the drug addict. Ditto the binge drinker. Ditto those children who are truanting or who cannot behave at school.
"Scratch the surface of these cases and you invariably find a miserable family, overseen by a dysfunctional and fractured parental relationship - or none at all."
He warned, "It is as big a threat to our society as terrorism, street crime or drugs, but far more insidious. It will be more destructive than any economic decline caused by international markets."
Justice Coleridge stressed it was too late to help families just by bringing back tax breaks for marriage.
He sets out a five-point plan including more effort to educate parents and children on how to keep families together.
The judge also calls for higher spending on family courts, more court time for family cases and modernisation of the laws on divorce and family break-up.
He is also accusing the government of "fiddling while Rome burns" and dismisses "high-sounding declarations about taking children out of poverty" as insufficient.
Latest figures show marriage rates at a historic low and divorce at a historic high.
Children from single-parent families are far more likely to do badly at school, suffer poor health, fall into crime, drug abuse, heavy drinking and teenage pregnancy.