Difference between Family and Household : Sociology Notes

Households and families are basic units of analyzing demography. They are often used as interchangeable words but there’s a distinction between the two of them. And it is important to understand the difference between both of these terms.

Family:

‘Family’ has no particular definition. It could mean all the generations after a common ancestor (an entire family tree) or parents and children living together as a single unit. In Sociology, we often use the narrower definition while we bring in the rest of the family only when they all live together (as in a joint family). A family is typically bound by common shared characteristics but in the light of the modern world we live in, this is not a mandatory characteristic for the determination of a unit as a family.

Now comes the question of families out of blood or kinship (marriage). In reality, families don’t demand relationships through either blood or kinship. If this was a requirement, a single parent with children (or adopted children) should conventionally not be considered a family but it is. So are couples without children? The same goes for an unmarried couple with adopted children. So, families don’t require multiple generations under one roof.

Household:

A household is typically a group of people who live under one roof, irrespective of their blood or kinship relations. They are mostly families, though. But a significant lot could be students who are flatmates, people who have moved out of home and are living independently or people living in homes for migrant workers as such.

Family households typically consist of two or more individuals who are related by blood, kinship or adoption. On the other hand, non-family households are made of people who live alone or share their homes with individuals they are not related to. Economic and social changes can change the composition of households. Liberal societies could influence many unmarried couples to live together. An increase in divorce rates could pave the way for an increase in single-person households. Also, a bad economic crisis could lead to many adults living back with their parents.

The stages:

The living arrangements of every individual transition from one stage to another. A person starts out in a family household (with his parents) and leaves this household to live separately or with friends (or unknown people- flatmates). Eventually, one forms a family household with one’s spouse and consequently children. In old age, the person might live in a single-person household due to divorce or departure of the spouse. These are the possible stages in one’s life and not everyone goes through all these phases. People could omit or repeat certain stages.

Taking into account the contemporary world, the two are not always the same. In this age of numerous migrations, many individuals stay away from their parents or even spouses and children. They pool in resources to live under the same roof. In conclusion, All families are also households, but not all households are families. The difference between families and households varies from one person to another as well as from one society to another.

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