General Characteristics of Agriculture, Industrial, and Information Age Family/Household Patterns

Extended family: several generations living and working together on the land.

  • Industrial Age:
  • Nuclear family: father working, mother at home not working, and approximately two children--for middle and upper classes in developed West. Also nuclear family in lower class West and socialist countries--except that women worked.

  • Information Age:
  • Multiple family patterns: no one model everyone must follow to be socially accepted. Examples include: married couples with or without children; unmarried couples living together; single parents; divorced parents with children who remarry, making children part of different households; single-person households; people living in groups; gay and lesbian couples; etc.

    Information/Data on Family/Household Patterns of Spain

    Family Model

    The Spanish family has undergone radical transformations throughout this century as a consequence of demographic changes, but also owing to mutations in the socioeconomic and employment structure of society in the system of values. The principal change, the same as in the majority of European nations, is that of the transition from the extended family unit representative of rural agrarian societies to a nuclear model, made up of a married couple and children which is more in keeping with urban industrial societies. The family has been traditionally founded upon, and still is in the majority of cases, the institution of marriage, which at present is still largely performed according to Catholic rites, although the number of exclusively civil ceremonies has increased within the past few years. The total number of marriages has varied little throughout the century, generally fluctuating between 7 and 8.5 per year for each 1,000 inhabitants. Nevertheless, a sharp decline has also been observed over the past few years along with the steep fall in births. Since 1977, the number of marriages has fallen to rates of 6.6 per 1,000 in 1979 and 5.6 per 1,000 in 1989. This notable decline in the number of marriages is similar to that given as the figure in other E.C. states. At present, there are fewer marriages in Spain than in any other EC country or Council of Europe member State, with the single exception of Sweden. To the contrary, the practice of cohabitation is increasing, although as of yet it is still insignificant and fairly uncommon, in spite of the fact that it is increasingly socially accepted. The age for first marriages has also varied in accordance with the European patterns. It was relatively advanced during the first decades of the century, but became even more so during the Civil War. From then on, and as a consequence of socioeconomic improvements, the age at which one first married slowly and progressively declined to 26 years of age for men and 23.5 for women from 1976 to 1980. From 1981 to 1985, it has been observed that people are again marrying at a more mature age, as in ther European countries as a consequence of the economic crisis and the new set of values with respect to matrimony and the couple. The sharp fall in number of marriages in these past few years indicates that the marrying age has again shot up. The available data from other European countries show that the average age for marriage for both sexes has again risen by one or two years, as a consequence of more serious economic problems, especially youth unemployment.

    The proportion of single-person households (slightly less than 10% of the total at present) has increased. Legislation authorizing divorce is quite recent (divorce was regulated in Spain in 1981), and the divorce rate is very low (0.5 per 1,000, in 1986 and 0.9 per 1,000 in 1990) in comparison with other European societies, practically three times as high. The proportion of children born out of wedlock is also less in Spain than in the other EC countries. Spain shows only 5%, whereas this figure reaches 36% for Denmark and 50% in Iceland, Norway and Sweden.

    Birth Rate
    The decline in the birth rate has directly affected the size of families dropping from 4 members in 1960 to 3.5 members in 1991, a figure which, according to all indicators, will continue to slide in the next few years. The infant mortality rate is 7 per 1,000.


    With mutiple family patterns now increasing in Spain, we see the trend of Spain's family/household patterns shifting to the Information Age.