Geographies of family formations: spatial differences and gender cultures in Britain

Simon Duncan, Darren Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The significance of national differences in family formations has been addressed through the social policy debate over women's position in different welfare state regimes. However, the nature and effects of sub–national family geographies remains under–researched. In this paper we use census mapping to describe regional and local differences in partnering and parenting within Britain. We develop an index of the 'Motherhood Employment Effect' to indicate different geographical levels of adherence to the 'traditional' male breadwinner/female homemaker family, and use a 'Family Conventionality' index to describe geographical differences in the social evaluation of marriage. The geography of family formations thus described does not follow the better known 'north–south' or 'urban–rural' geographies of economic performance and prosperity. We use the example of Lancashire and Yorkshire to explore further the socio–economic associations of this family geography, employing additional indicators of 'household conventionality' and 'family restructuring'. Finally, we speculate as to how this relatively unfamiliar family geography may be related to the existence of regional gender cultures, and briefly outline some implications for social policy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)471-493
Number of pages23
JournalTransactions of the Institute of British Geographers
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2002


  • Britain
  • Lancashire and Yorkshire
  • family
  • gender culture
  • census
  • mapping


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