This month, as we think about the Holy Family, we learn that in spite of educators, politicians and the media, our children still believe in marriage and the family. It seems that kids never try to kid themselves. Britain’s youngsters firmly believe in marriage, against the trend of their parents’ and elders’ experience. That is the verdict of a Readers Digest/MORI poll of more than 500 youngsters aged from ten to 17 years.

A resounding 82 per cent declared it likely that they themselves would get married one day. This view was shared almost equally: 80 per cent of boys and 83 per cent of girls – although it varied from 76 per cent among respondents in the North to 87 per cent in the South. And children whose own parents have divorced or separated are not put off: they are just as likely to consider marriages those whose parents are still together.

Seventy-five per cent still believe that marriage should be for ever – a belief shared equally among boys and girls.

Nearly three-quarters – 72 per cent believe that it is better for children to live with both rather than just one of their parents. Interestingly, boys take a more conservative stance than girls on several issues. While 32 per cent of boys felt that parents should stay together even if they are unhappy, only 21 per cent of girls agree. Nearly half the boys (44 per cent) believed it should be made more difficult for people to get divorced, but only 35 per cent of girls did so. And significantly more boys (38 per cent) than girls (29 per cent) think it wrong to have a child outside marriage.

Boys are also keener on the idea of getting married young. While 17 per cent felt that 18 was the right age for getting married, only eight per cent of girls agreed.

Two-thirds of those polled felt that the right age for marriage is between 20 and 25. Asked about the right age for starting a family, 58 per cent opted for 25 or older.

Fifty per cent say they would not have a child unless they were married, though this ranged from 44 per cent in the Midlands to 58 per cent in the South.

Family expert Zelda West-Meads welcomed our findings: While we are so often told that family life is doomed, this poll shows that the young retain an enormous optimism in the future of marriage.

Sadly though, our poll reveals today’s young people as the anxious generation.

Thirty-four per cent of youngsters admitted worrying about their own parents splitting up. And 82 per cent know people or children whose parents have split up or been divorced.

MORI interviewed a representative quota sample of 508 children aged from ten to 17 years old in 44 sampling points across Great Britain between August 16 and 25. Copies of the poll are available at £10 from MORI, 95 Southwark Street, London SE1 0HX Telephone 0171 928 5955