Social Science

According to a Recent Study, Families Will See Significant Shifts In The Next Years

According to a Recent Study, Families Will See Significant Shifts In The Next Years

The number of relatives that an individual has is predicted to fall by more than 35% in the foreseeable future. At the same time, the structure of families will shift. The number of cousins, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren will decrease dramatically, while the number of great-grandparents and grandparents will rise greatly. In 1950, the average 65-year-old lady had 41 living relatives. By 2095, the average lady of her age will have only 25 living relations.

Diego Alburez-Gutierrez leads the Research Group Kinship Inequalities at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock. He recently co-authored a paper with Ivan Williams of the University of Buenos Aires and Hal Caswell of the University of Amsterdam that projected the global evolution of human family links.

According to a Recent Study, Families Will See Significant Shifts In The Next Years

The results are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“We asked ourselves how demographic change will affect the ‘endowment’ of kinship in the future,” Alburez-Gutierrez explains. “What was the size, structure, and age distribution of families in the past, and how will they evolve in the future?”

The researchers analyzed by analyzing historical and predicted data from the United Nations’ 2022 World Population Prospects revision.

“We use mathematical models to represent a person’s relationship with their ancestors and descendants over a given period. The model calculates the average age and sex distributions for various categories of kinship for each calendar year,” adds Alburez-Gutierrez. Each country has 1,000 kinship histories calculated.

Shrinking families

The researchers recorded variations in family size around the world, which they defined as the number of living great-grandparents, grandparents, parents, children, grandkids and great-grandchildren, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, siblings, and cousins.

“We expect the average size of families to decrease permanently in all regions of the world. “We anticipate the greatest declines in South America and the Caribbean,” adds Alburez-Gutierrez.

In 1950, the average 65-year-old lady had 56 living relatives. By 2095, that figure is predicted to fall to 18.3 relatives, representing a 67% decrease. In North America and Europe, where families are already quite tiny, the effects will be less noticeable. A 65-year-old woman had approximately 25 living relatives in 1950, but by 2095, she will only have 15.9 relatives.

Relatives have an important role in providing informal care

Kinship projections are crucial in the setting of rapidly aging populations, as smaller birth cohorts are increasingly responsible for older persons who have fewer or no relatives.

“Our findings confirm that the availability of kinship resources is decreasing globally. As the age gap between individuals and their relatives expands, people will have smaller and older family networks. Consider the instance of grandparents and great-grandparents, who are predicted to be more plentiful in the future. While this could theoretically reduce the strain of childcare on parents, these (great-)grandparents may require care themselves.”

The study emphasizes the importance of investing in social support systems that ensure people’s well-being throughout their lives. A huge section of the world’s population today lacks access to well-developed social support networks. For them, family relationships are still a significant source of support and informal care, and this is expected to continue in the future.

“These seismic shifts in family structure will bring about important societal challenges that policymakers in the global North and South should consider,” said Alburez-Gutierrez.