Family Demographic Trends in Developed & Developing Countries

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  • 0:02 Family Demographics
  • 1:14 Marriage & Divorce
  • 3:46 Family Composition
  • 6:31 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

In this lesson, you will explore the ways in which industrialization can influence family dynamics, values, and composition. Then test your understanding with a brief quiz.

Family Demographics

A family is a mother, a father, and their two biological children. That's a family, right? Well, yes, but it's not the only kind of family. How about a mother and child? Or relatives of different races? Or parents with adopted children? Or grandparents raising their grandchildren? Or same-sex parents? Families come in all shapes and sizes, and that's really lucky for us. Why? Because it's more fun to study! We are social scientists after all, and family demographics, or statistical analyses of family trends within a population, would be really boring if all families looked the same. Families are major parts of our world, our societies, and our daily lives. Some researchers even think that the family is the fundamental social unit on which all of society is built, and this has dramatic implications, especially when we look at the way societies handle major changes - say, the development of industrial technology. So with families being so different but so important, we've got plenty to study.

Marriage & Divorce

The impacts of industrialization has been something that has fascinated researchers for over a century. As more and more nations develop industrial economies, their populations tend to go through certain demographic changes, and these changes can impact families in some major ways. Let's start with...the start. The starting of a family, that is. In most societies, families are traditionally formed by marriage. That's where a new family comes from. So let's start by looking at marriage rates. In societies with little industrial technology, there tends to be strong social pressures to get married early in life. This stems from the belief that the purpose of marriage is to have children, so getting married earlier increases the chances for more kids. However, as nations industrialize, values tend to change. Wages increase, cost of living increases, and people no longer produce their own food, so careers become important. Industrialized nations tend to place more emphasis on women working than being mothers, and this often means that people get married much later in life.

This change also affects the length of a marriage. Divorce is not considered to be an option in many areas without lots of industrial technology. However, as nations industrialize, changing social and political values make divorce more practical. Maybe the laws are changed so that women have more rights after a divorce, or maybe social pressures change so that divorced people are not treated like outcasts. In many industrialized nations, divorce rates are very high. For example, Spain, Portugal, and Hungary all have divorce rates over 60%. By contrast, most areas that are still industrializing have divorce rates below 30%. So why? Does industrial technology just make people bad at marriage? Not really. Since people who live in industrial areas tend to not grow their own food, they have to buy it. This makes living more expensive, and generally all adults have to work. However, once that happens, social values tend to start favoring individual happiness and rights, and people are more reluctant to stay trapped in an unhappy marriage. So divorce rates go up as the societal acceptance of divorce increases as well.

Family Composition

So industrialization can impact when people get married and how long they choose to stay married. But that's not the only trend we see. The development of industrial economies also tends to come with changes in family composition, or the makeup of a family. First let's talk about fertility, or having children. Like we talked about earlier, areas with less industrial technology tend to favor big families. Having lots of kids is very practical if you rely on farming, for example. However, as people get married later in life, stop producing their own food, and have to spend more time working, having lots of kids becomes more difficult. Industrial areas tend to have lower fertility rates. People choose to have fewer kids, and this is possible because of the availability of birth control. Birth control contraceptives generally become more available since public healthcare is generally improved as part of industrializing. This gives people the chance to control their family sizes and only have the number of kids they want, exactly when they want them.

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