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.

Professor Brienna Perelli-Harris

Champion for Family

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Brienna Perelli Harris

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).

Family formation

Professor Brienna Perelli-Harris talks about her research on partnership formation and cohabiting.


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: How does family migration affect children's wellbeing as they grow up?

Dr Rachel Bennett and Dr Tatiana Eremenko look at how being separated from parents affects migrant children’s wellbeing in later life.

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.

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