Family and households

Investigating changing family life, childcare, parenting styles, child developmment, family networks and caring for family members.

Family life in the UK is changing. One in four children under 15 no longer live with both biological parents, cohabitation is growing and children are leaving the parental home later. Families also contribute to the growing number of informal carers in the UK and there is increasing evidence of a 'sandwich generation' looking after both their children and their parents.

Dr Brienna Perelli-Harris

Champion for Family

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What data do Understanding Society collect?

Understanding Society is a study based on households. We interview all members of the household over the age of ten, and we ask parents a variety of questions for younger children. The Study is longitudinal, so follows the same people over time. In this way we create a holistic, dynamic picture of family life in the 21st century; how families are changing, how different family members interact with each other and how things that one family member does affects the rest of the family.

We also ask about how families interact with their wider family outside the household whether that is with grandparents caring for children or separated families taking care of their children together.The longitudinal design of the surveys allows research on family circumstances, relations, transitions and changes over time both within households and as people move out, for all kinds of reasons, and form households of their own. Further, a sub-set of the Understanding Society sample can be traced back to 1991 using the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS).

Working paper: conceptualising household finances

This working paper explores how people conceptualise household finances. Through the mapping of household finances activity, the working paper looks at how people conceptualise their flow of money, how closely they budget or manage their finances and the complexity of incomes.

Questionnaire grid

Find out more about the key topic areas available in the questionnaire which focus on different family issues. The grid includes a summary of family modules and how often they are repeated.

Case study: Tackling worklessness and its consequences for children

The Department for Work and Pensions has used Understanding Society to investigate the consequences of disadvantage for families, analysing parents' work situations and the impact on children.

Blog: Family fortunes - and how they persist over generations.

Dr Min Zhang and Professor Yaojun Li explore the impact that grandparents' social class has on their grandchildren's opportunities - from childhood through to later life. 

Latest News

learning the piano

Poorer children miss out on music and sports

Playing sport, learning to play a musical instrument or joining a drama group give children vital skills and the chance to socialise with different groups of people, but research from the Social Mobility Commission has found that whether children take part in these types of activity is heavily influenced by how much money their family has.


Latest Case Study

Poverty in the UK

Measuring poverty

The Social Metrics Commission used Understanding Society to measure rates of poverty persistence.


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