What’s family life like in the UK today? Below is a statistical overview of family life in the UK – covering such things as households types, and marriage statistics.
1. There were 12.4 million married couple families in the UK in 2015, representing two thirds of all family-households
For all the talk of the decline in the nuclear family, the statistics suggest the traditional, married nuclear family is still the predominant family type.
However, of the 12.4 million married family households, only 4.7 million of them have dependent children, while 7.8 million of them are without dependent children. So if we’re taking about numbers of ‘classic nuclear family households – 4.7 million is only about 35% of the total number of family households (18.7 million)
Also, the statistics above only show family households, they don’t include single person households, which make up about 30% of all households in the UK today.
2. There were 27 million households in the UK in 2015 and one-family households accounted for just over half of them
3. In 2013 29% of all households in the UK were single person households
These are mostly people aged over 65 (who are mainly females). The number of people aged over 40 living alone is increasing, while the number of younger people living alone is actually decreasing, partly because….
4. The number of 16-34 year olds living with their parents has seen a recent rapid increase in recent years
In 1996 there were ‘just’ 5.8 million young people living with their parents. By 2015 this had increased to 6.7 million
5. The marriage rate has almost halved since the 1970s
In the early 1970s, there were over 400 000 weddings a year, but this steadily fell to under 250 000 in the 2000s. 2009-2012 saw a small increase in the marriage rate, but from 2013 marriage rates seem to be going back down again! The decline in the rate of marriage is three times more rapid than the corresponding decline in divorce over the same period…
6. In 2012 the mean age of marriage was 36.5 years for men and 34.0 years for women
7. In 2015 Lone Parent Family Households were 8 times more likely to be workless than two-parent family households
This goes a long way to explaining why lone parent families are more likely to suffer poverty compared to dual-parent households
This is part 1 of 3 posts outlining the underlying factors which explain the increase in household diversity
1. Changing patterns of marriage, divorce and cohabitation
The increase long term decline or marriage and increase in cohabitation and divorce can explain many of the above trends:
The fact that people are getting married later explains why there are more Kidult and single person households (for those who can afford it).
Any divorce which involves children is very likely to create one single parent household and one single person household for a period of time, and then many of these people will go on to form reconstituted families.
Relationship breakdown is more common amongst cohabiting rather than married families, and the cohabiting family household is the fastest growing family type in the UK.
Higher rates of divorce might also explain the increase in multigenerational households – as single mothers move back in with their parents, thus forming a multigenerational household.
2. Postmodernism and Postmodernisation
Postmodernists argue that the increase in the diversity of family household structures reflects the fact that we live in a diverse, tolerant society in which people are free to choose any type of family.
More people choose to stay single and hence there is an increase in Single Person Households Kidult households and because people are more tolerant it is easier than it was to be a single parent today because there is less stigma associated with being a single parent.
Another related factor here is that people are freer to choose non-nuclear families because of the decline of tradition and religion – there is much less social pressure to get married, have kids and stay married, so all other options become more viable.
Evaluation: Other perspectives argue that people do not simply choose to go into ‘alternative family structures’ – For example, Burghes and Browne’s 1995 research with 31 single parents found that not one of them had planned to become single parents, and all of them arributed their single parent status to the fact that their male partners had been either violent or too immature for parenthood
3. Economic Factors
The long term increase in wealth and overall rising standards of living explains the long-term increase in single person households. Generally wealthier countries have a higher proportion of single person households, and it is only wealthy countries where significant numbers of people can afford to live alone because it is expensive compared to two adults sharing the cost of a mortgage, bills, and food. It seems that when people can afford to do so, they are more likely to choose to live alone.
However, not everyone has benefitted from increasing wealth in the UK because at the same time as increasing wealth, the cost of living, and especially the cost of housing has increased. This explains the recent increase in multigenerational households and Kidult Households: at the lower end of the social class scale there are millions of people who cannot afford to buy or even rent their own houses, and so they stay living with their parents.
In 2011 there were 544,000 step families with dependent children in England and Wales.
This means that 11% of couple families with dependent children were step families.
The Number of step families has increased since the 1950s.
However, the number of step families has declined recently dropping from 631,000 in 2001 to just 544,000 in 2011.
If there is only one biological parent in the step-family, that parent is the mother rather than the father in 90% of cases.
Trends in Lone Parent Households
There were nearly 2.0 million lone parents with dependent children in the UK in 2012, a figure which has grown significantly from 1.6 million in 1996.
In 2012, women accounted for 91 per cent of lone parents with dependent children and men the remaining 9 per cent. These percentages have changed little since 1996.
Trends in Single Person Households
In the UK, 34% of households have one person living in them.
According to Euromonitor International, the number of people living alone globally is skyrocketing, rising from about 153 million in 1996 to 277 million in 2011 – an increase of around 80% in 15 years.
Trends in ‘Kidult’ Households
According to the Office for National Statistics, in 2011, nearly 3.0 million adults aged between 20 and 34 were living with a parent or parents, an increase of almost half a million, or 20 per cent, since 1997.
This means that nearly 1/3 men and 1/7 women in the UK now live with their parents.
Trends in Multigenerational Households
The ONS doesn’t collect data on ‘multigenerational households’, but it does collect data on ‘concealed families’, a closely related concept.
The latest census analysis reveals there were 289,000 concealed families in 2011, making up 1.8% of all families (15.8 million) in England and Wales. A concealed family is a family living in a multi-family household, in addition to the primary family.
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