[History by Numbers] 'We shrunk the kids'
How household sizes have varied over time
Most of us are familiar with the concept of the ‘nuclear family’ – the nucleus of a pair of adults and their children, distinct from the ‘extended family’.
The social importance of the nuclear family is certainly not a new idea. Rather amusingly, the ‘General Report’ that prefaced the publication of the 1871 census rather pompously noted that “The natural family is founded by marriage, and consists, in its complete state, of husband, wife, and children”.
The modern cliché of the nuclear family, epitomised in the 1990s British sitcom of the same name, is of ‘2.4 children’ – this was supposedly the average number of children in a UK household at the time, although, in fact, it wasn’t.