Associated Study: Understanding families beyond the definition of the household

A key priority for Understanding Society is to capture changing family dynamics. Like most large-scale surveys, Understanding Society relies on the ‘household’ to create opportunities for investigating family definitions, but households do not always capture the complexity of contemporary family lives. 

This Associated Study was carried out by: 

  • Charlotte Hamilton, Insitute for Social and Economic Research, University of Essex
  • Karon Gush, Institute for Social and Economic Research, University of Essex

This research project aimed to better understand how the Study could engage with family members living outside the responding household and focused on two relationship types: separated families, and supportive relationships in older age.

The research used a combination of group discussions with members of the public and interviews with Understanding Society respondents. This combination was chosen to gain a breadth of experiences from both existing respondents and those not involved with the Study. A total of 58 people took part in the research. The research was carried out by Kantar Public, the fieldwork agency for Understanding Society.

The research indicated that people were generally open to the idea of helping the Study to contact their family members who lived outside the household. Participants highlighted a range of issues that could influence involvement, for example concern about how the quality of their family relationships might be affected. Participants gave examples of how the Study could best explain the purpose of contacting extended family members to support involvement.

The findings from this research have informed the considerations around the feasibility of Understanding Society being expanded to include family members who live outside the household. The research highlighted both opportunities and concerns for any expansion, which can help to inform the future direction of the Study.  

What is an Associated Study?

An Associated Study is an opportunity for individual researchers or organisations to collect information from Understanding Society respondents that has not already been asked in the survey. They provide the opportunity for new cross-disciplinary and mixed methods research.