Family change and variation through the lens of family configurations in low- and middle-income countries

Andrés Felipe Castro Torres, Luca Maria Pesando, Hans Peter Kohler, Frank Furstenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Using 254 Demographic and Health Surveys from 75 low- and middle-income countries, this study shows how the joint examination of family characteristics across rural and urban areas provides new insights for understanding global family change. We operationalise this approach by building family configurations: a set of interrelated features that describe different patterns of family formation and structure. These features include partnership (marriage/unions) regimes and their stability, gender relations, household composition and reproduction. Factorial and clustering techniques allow us to summarise these family features into three factorial axes and six discrete family configurations. We provide an in-depth description of these configurations, their spatial distribution and their changes over time. Global family change is uneven because it emerges from complex interplays between the relative steadiness of longstanding arrangements for forming families and organising gender relations, and the rapidly changing dynamics observed in the realms of fertility, contraception, and timing of family formation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2531
JournalPopulation, Space and Place
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Geography, Planning and Development


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