Family networks

This driver has been archived

This driver has now been replaced by Changing Family Structures

The classic extended family consisting of three generations living under the same roof is now almost extinct. Increased personal and social mobility also means that it is less likely that generations of the same family will live in the same geographical area with exceptions amongst some ethnic minority communities. People are increasing relying on their friendship groups for support in place of their families, this is particularly significant amongst young people.

What are the implications?

  • A change in traditional family networks may further increase the number of single person households.
  • Weakened family and geographical ties may impact on individuals’ sense of community responsibility.
  • Impact on poverty and inequality if traditional sources of family income decrease
  • Weaker geographical and family ties could lead to a ‘responsibility gap’ – where more vulnerable people may fall outside the care or responsibility of their family, community, VCOs or other governmental institutions.
  • Numbers of volunteers could decrease as family networks are often a gateway in to the community and volunteering

Moving forward

  • Will the support your organisation provide, or the profile of those you support, need to change as immediate family and household ties change?
  • How does your organisation track any changes in the support needs (including financial, social or caring needs) of your users (or non-users)? Do you need to revisit how you capture and act on this information?
  • Are individuals in your locality or field falling through a 'responsibility gap'? What is the role of your organisation in providing support to these individuals or campaigning for the gap to be filled by others?
  • Do changing family networks suggest opportunities for innovative new ways of support within society (eg based on friendship networks rather than family networks)? Could your organisation play a role in developing or piloting new initiatives?

Want to know more?

Household Projections to 2031, England

Published by: Communities and Local Government (a UK government department)

Date: 2009

Format: PDF

What is it? Statistical projections on the numbers of households of particular types up until 2031, including married couple, cohabiting couple, lone parent, other multi-person and one person households. Also includes other projections such as the age of the head of the household and projected growth in the number of households per region.

How useful is this? Although projections can never be entirely accurate, this source is extremely helpful in not only providing a picture of today's household structures but also forecasting what the future will look like.

The State of the Modern Family

Published by: The Equal Opportunities Commission – an agency that is now part of the Equality and Human Rights Commission

Date: 2007

Format: PDF

What is it? This short article examines trends in the shape and behaviour of modern families using findings and statistics from a longitudinal survey.

How useful is this? The focus of this article is not on family networks but on the changing role of parents and childcare arrangements.  However, it does include information on alternatives to formal childcare provision including use of the extended family.  It also provides several statistics on the role of the family as carers for elderly relatives.  The article highlights differences between different social groups.

Focus on Families

Published by: Office for National Statistics – a Government Department

Date: 2007

Format: PDF as well as web based summaries

What is it? A statistical analysis using demographic information to explore family types and examine the similarities and differences between them.

How useful is this? This short analysis provides a good overview of families and information with particular focus on: married and cohabiting couples; dependent children; lone parent families; and step families.  There are also sections considering how different ethnicities and religions affect family structures.

Unilever Family Report 2005: Home Alone?

Published by: IPPR – a left of centre think tank

Date: 2005

Format: PDF

What is it? This report explores the growing trend of people living alone and includes a range of statistics as well as qualitative analysis.

How useful is this? Although several years old now, this article contains some useful analysis. It focuses on living alone but it also analyses the effect this might have more broadly on families and social relations. Overall the report finds that social and familial ties are extremely important to those living alone and that solo living can enhance social and community relationships.

Families in Britain: An Evidence Paper 

Published by: Cabinet Office 

Date: Dec 2008

Format: PDF (1.92MB)

What is it? A report by the Cabinet Office Strategy Unit looking in detail at the changing patterns of family composition and characteristics. 

How useful is this? The Family Composition section provides a well presented and accessible overview of the changes that are occurring to traditional models of family make-up and the drivers behind them. The future for families section is especially useful for those interested in how changes in these trends will continue into the future and the possible impact these may have.

Other comments: The report contains a wealth of footnotes within each section allowing further exploration of individual sources if desired.

Last updated at 16:22 Wed 23/Feb/11.


How will this affect your organisation? Have you considered it during your strategic planning? Can you share any interesting relevant links?

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