Sociology : Family : Demographic Changes


  • Demographic refers to the study of the population
  • Over the past 100 years there have been significant changes in population, affecting families and the wider society
  • In general women are having fewer children - families becoming smaller
  • Increase in amount of old people
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  • Birth, death and fertility rates
  • Ageing population and an increasing dependency ratio
  • Migration
  • Birth rates declining since 1901
  • Fertility rate below level required to replace population in 1973


  • Birth rate - 29 per 1000
  • Fertility - 3:5 per 1000
  • Death - 18.4 per 1000
  • Life expectancy - 45


  • Birth rate - 12 per 1000
  • Fertility - 1.94 per 1000
  • Death - 9.1 per 1000
  • Life expectancy - Men : 75  Women : 82.6
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Smaller Families

  • Change in gender roles means women are delaying having children
  • Effective contraception
  • Increase of education performance of women
  • Children have become an economic burden for longer
  • Higher expectations of living standards
  • Falling mortality rate

Reason for these trends: Individualisation

People no longer have to follow traditional norms and values, so instead they make their own decisions about marriage and having children. This has resulted in fewer people feeling that they should have children.

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Death Rates

Since 1901 death rates have falled from 18.4 per 1000 to 9.1 per 1000. Death rates vary between social groups and places.

Reasons for these trends:

  • Decrease in infectious diseases
  • Medical advances
  • Improved maternity care and establishment of the NHS have led to decline in infant mortality rates
  • Welfare, health and environment - government provided better sanitation, sickness benefit and free school meals
  • Ageing population means greater strain on resources

Griffons and Brock argue that the decline in death rate is because of hygiene and improved nutrition, this has improved lack of absolute poverty.

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Emigration = leaving

Migration = coming in                                II The emigration rate is higher for the UK.

1960's Indians came over to be doctors and 1970's Bangladeshis fled natural disasters.

  • Pull factors - good education, health care, political and economic stability and employment
  • Push factors - war/conflict
  • Globalisation - Compression of time and space, countries become more connected
  • Families are generally smaller and more geographically mobile (move for work).
  • Transitional companies e.g. nestle can provide opportunities for movement as no one is based.
  • Huge number of multi-cultural families
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Changing Relationships with the Elderly

  • 14 million grandparents - 2012, 7 million of them over 65
  • 1 in 3 families depend on grandparents
  • 45% of those under 54 years provide regular childcare compared to those over 65 (only 29%)
  • Around 200,000 grandparents are raising their grandchildren as 'kinship career' this can put a strain on their relationships (diminished leisure times and financial burden).
  • Grandparents may be viewed as the new 'reserved army of labour' - Beechey : sucked in and out of the labour market as needed and who also serve to keep wages low.

Ross et al found qualitative evidence that the relationship between grandparents and other family members was positive.

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