Question Kingsley Social Sciences

The different types of families in the UK

What are the different types of family in the UK and how common are they?

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Answer Expert #931

The term ‘family’ is increasingly difficult to define in the modern world and statistics evidence an increasing number of family types. Figures collated in 2015 indicated that there were 18.7 million families in the UK (Office of National Statistics, 2015). In the UK there are a number of different family and household types, yet the media and politicians tend to focus on the more traditional family units as representing what is ‘normal’. (Squire, 2009).

The nuclear family consisting of one or two parents and their children living in the same household is arguably seen as the most common family type (Squires, 2009) yet other structures found in the UK include the extended family, the lone parent family and step families. The matri-focal family is defined as one headed by women, often with a mother and grandmother both in the household (Squire, 2009) whilst same-sex families with two adult male or females co-habiting with children either via adoption, surrogacy or previous relationships are also found in the UK.

The ONS states that the married or civil partner family, without or without children, remains the most common family type whilst the cohabiting family is the fastest growing; in 2015 there were 3.2 million couples cohabiting outside of marriage or civil partnership. As a contrast to this, some commentators make reference to separated families; this is where the relationship between adults has broken down but males and females continue in traditional roles of breadwinner and home maker to support their children (Cheal, 2003). Other statistics to note from recent surveys include the fact that around 40% of young adults aged between 15 and 34 were now living with parents, something that is linked to house prices, rising rents and unemployment rates for young people (Osborne, 2015).


Cheal, D. (2003) Family: Critical Concepts in Sociology. Routledge: London.
ONS (2015) Families and Households: 2015. [Online] Available: []

Osborne, H. (2015) Home invasion: fifth of adults live with parents until they're at least 26. The Guardian [Online] Available: []

Squire, C. (2009) The Social Context of Birth. Oxford: Radcliffe