National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future

General Overview

General Overview

Society, and the composition of its households, has changed considerably from the 'traditional family' household that was the norm in the 50s and 60s. A comparison of Scotland's household composition with that of England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland may cast light on these changes.

The 1971 Census in Scotland (National Records of Scotland (NRS), 1971) made no distinction between married couples and co-habiting couples. Instead, households were classed in terms of the number of families and people, where a family was defined as:

'a married couple with or without their never-married children'

'a mother or father together with his or her never-married children'

Using this definition, in conjunction with the '1971 Census - Household Composition Tables' (NRS, 1975) and the '2001 - Scottish Social Statistics' (Scottish Government, 2001), the following changes took place:

Census Results 19971-2001 - Changes in household structure, Scotland 
  • The percentage of all households with at least 1 pensioner rose from 12% in 1971 to 15% in 2001.

  • The percentage of all married/cohabiting couple with children households fell from 45% to 26%.

  • The percentage of all lone-parent family households rose from 8% to 10½%.

  • The percentage of all one-person households rose from 18% in 1971 to 33% in 2001.

  • The percentage of married/cohabiting couples without children has fallen slightly while there was an increase in the percentage of households classed as 'other' over the 30-year period.

Figure 2 (11 KB PDF) illustrates these changes. It is evident from this chart that, whilst the prevalence of couple households has decreased, all other household types have increased as a proportion of total households, most particularly one-person households. The subsequent subsections discuss these changes and explore whether Scotland is unique in the United Kingdom and Ireland or whether these trends are part of some wider change in household composition.

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