National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future

Changing Scotland

Changing Scotland


'Households used to be created by marriage and dissolved by death – in between there were children' (Weeks, 1996). This is no longer true of all today’s households, whose creation does not require marriage and whose dissolution does not require death. Children now live in many different household types and a variety of family units.

This increasing diversity and complexity in household types Figure 1 (159 KB PDF) has been attributed to the following demographic factors:-

  • Delay in marriage / increasing number of late marriages;

  • Decrease in the marriage rate;

  • Increase in co-habitation;

  • Increase in illegitimacy;

  • Increase in the divorce rate; and

  • Decrease in the fertility rate.

As a result of these changes, the 'traditional' household - consisting of a married couple with child(ren) - is no longer the statistical norm. It has given way to lone parent households (in particular female-headed households), single person households, and unmarried person households (whether widowed, divorced, never married or co-habiting). This paper compares these changes - described as the increasing 'pluralisation' of Scottish households - with the rest of the UK and Ireland over the last 20 or 30 years.

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