The number of families seeking counselling for domestic problems shot up 30 per cent last year. Of the 5,192 families who sought help from the welfare group Caritas, 4,231 were new cases, a third more than in 1998. Most of the problems stemmed from dissatisfaction in marriage or problems with children, Caritas family service supervisor Lai Wai-lun said. 'Many people have very high expectations of marriage now. But they discover there are many conflicts due to poor communication skills,' he said. 'They don't know how to solve things.' Mr Lai said about 54 per cent of the service's users had at least secondary school education. Group social worker Paulina Kwok Chi-ying said people seeking help were becoming younger and had a very different concept of marriage. 'They don't have the belief as in the past that marriage is a lifetime thing. They can easily think of divorce whenever there is a problem, even it is a trivial one,' Ms Kwok said. She said people should learn that marriages changed with time. 'It cannot be the same for 50 years. At different stages, people should change roles - as a supporter, a listener, an adviser or a counsellor,' she said. The group said the economic environment also played a major part in family disputes. The group urged families experiencing problems to seek outside help as soon as possible. 'Luckily, more and more people know that,' Mr Lai said. 'They've learned that asking other people to help their marriage is not shameful. They've begun to think that it is their right to do so. We regard it as a very good sign. And we hope more and more people will think that way.' He said the Government also should take more initiative in helping families. 'It should consider outlining policies for the family. It should set up an interdepartmental board to co-ordinate policies of the housing, education, labour and social welfare departments to help families,' he said.