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June 13, 2013 / C H Thompson

What is the family?

The Office for National Statistics define the family as: “a family is a married, civil partnered or cohabiting couple with or withoutfamily children, or a lone parent with at least one child. Children may be dependent or non-dependent” (2011) – this is also known as a kinship group.

A kinship means being related by birth or blood. However families are formed by non-kinship relationships (adoption) such as foster children, step-children etc.

It’s important to appreciate the family unit is found in some form or another in all known societies because it plays a key role in socialising children into the culture of the society they live in.

Figure 1 below shows that the most common family type in the UK in both 1996 and 2012 was a married or civil partner couple family without dependent children. There were 7.6 million such families in 2012, an increase of over 200,000 since 1996.

The next most common family type was a married or civil partner couple family with dependent children, of which there weretypes of families 4.6 million in 2012.

This was the only family type to decrease in number since 1996. However, despite an increase in cohabiting couple families and lone parent families over the last decade, married couple families are still the most common family type in the UK, both with and without dependent children.


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