Family and household types in the contemporary UK


Family and household types in the contemporary UK

Family are based on relationships of blood, marriage or adoption.

Family of choice is where individuals choose to include people as family members who are not traditionally related.

Households are a group of people who live at the same address.

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Nuclear families

  • A nuclear family consists of a mother, father and 1+ biological/adopted children.
  • Used to be seen as the norm in Western societies up until the 70s.
  • The only family type to decrease in number since 1996.
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Extended families

  • Extended families include relatives beyond the nuclear family.
  • It can be extended vertically: 3+ generations.
  • It can be extended  horizontally: siblings living together and having families of their own.
  • Extended families were common in working class culture until 1950s.
  • Because of the emergence of individualisation, people can choose whether they want to keep ties with their extended family or not.
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Lone parent families

  • Families where at 1+ children lives with just one parent.
  • 91% lone parent families have the mother as the parent.
  • In 2013 there were nearly 1.9mil lone parent families in the UK, which is an increase from 1.8mil in 2003.
  • Many children will spend their childhood in a lone parent situation but many lone parents only remain alone for 5 years.
  • Panico et al. found that 3.9% lone parents went into cohabiting and 1.9% lone parents went into marriage.
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Reconstituted families

  • Where a couple form a family with children from previous relationships.
  • Can be called step-families/blended families.
  • In 2011 there were 544,000 reconstituted families with depended children in England and Wales (340,000 cohabiting, 203,000 marriage).
  • As the mother tends to stay with the child, there are more reconstituted families with step-dads rather than step-mums.
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Same-sex families

  • LGBT+ relationships became legal for men 21+ for the first time in 1967, since then there have been  many advances.
  • 2013, legislation to allow same sex marriage came into force.
  • They remain a tiny majority in the UK with only 8,000 civil partnerships and 5,000 cohabiting couples in 2013 (in comparison to 5.7mil heterosexual couples).
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Non-family households

  • Not all households are made up of families.
  • In 2013, there were 7.8mil households in the UK consisting of one person living alone (increase from 7.2mil in 2003).
  • There were also 800,000 households containing 2+ unrelated people living together (flatmates) from 2003 and this has remained unchanged.
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Living alone

  • Sociologist Klinenberg believes that in western society people are living alone in large numbers for three reasons:

    1. Cult of the individual: individuals are more focused on their own needs rather than on their role within a larger society, meaning that it is easier for people to not want  families.

    2. The communications revolution: individuals can achieve the pleasures of a social life even whilst living alone because of new technologies and the media.

    3. The ageing population: people are living longer meaning that it is more likely that they will be living alone, sp. elderly women bcause they have a longer life expectancy than men.

  • Adam Smith et al. found that 59% of people living alone had been to visit relatives in the last fortnight, meaning that many are still part of family networks.
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Living apart together

  • People can live alone but still be a part of families.
  • Many elderly people still have regular contact with their children.
  • Some choose to live alone but keep intimate relationships with people who live elsewhere. (called LATs)
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