Family Life Cycle: Stages, Transitions, Crisis, Marketing

The family life cycle  refers to the progressive stages that a family goes through . These produce changes in their composition and, therefore, in the relationships between the members. In addition, the family is susceptible to internal and external factors, such as the cultural system, social values ​​and expectations, political changes, among others.

The concept of the family life cycle is made up of stages that correspond to different life events. These events are expected based on what most families experience in a society.

Family life cycle

This concept has been used in different social sciences such  as sociology, psychology, political science and also in marketing, always with different objectives and with different approaches depending on the discipline taken into account.


Given that the concept of the family life cycle has been analyzed from different perspectives, it has also had different exponents who have proposed their vision of the stages of the family life cycle.

Two of the most widely used models are Wells and Gubar – which are especially applied in marketing – and Duvall.

Family life cycle according to Wells and Gubar

Single stage

Single youth who do not live together.

Just married couple

Young people living together and without children.

Nest full I

Young couples with children under 6 years of age.

Nest full II

Young couples with children 6 years and older.

Full nest III

Older couples with dependent children.

Empty nest I

There are no children at home and the head of the family continues to work.

Empty Nest II

The head of household is retired.

Lonely survivor

Working or retired.

Family life cycle according to Duvall

Married couples


Families in early parenting

Eldest child under 30 months.

Families with preschool-age children:

Oldest child between 2.5 and 6 years old.

Families with school-age children

Oldest child between 6 and 13 years old.

Families with teenagers

Eldest son between 13 and 20 years old.

Families as a launch pad

Fesde that the first child leaves the house until the last one does.

Middle-aged parents

From the empty nest to retirement.

Family with elderly members

From job retirement until the death of both members of the couple.

Criticisms of the stages of the family life cycle

Since there have been many changes in the last decades in the concept of family, it is also considered that these models must be adapted to new realities.

Among the most notable changes are the increase in life expectancy, the lower birth rate, the changes in the role of women in society, the greater number of divorces and new marriages, single-parent families and homosexual couples, among others. changes.

Transitions and crisis

As it progresses through the stages, each family must face normative stressful events (births or deaths) or not, which will alter the structure of the family and test their capacity to adapt.

Based on this, and taking Duvall’s model, it can be considered that the crises or stressors that a family may encounter according to their stage are the following:

Families in early parenting

In this part, the crisis is related to the transition from being two people to being three, acceptance of the new parental roles, affective bonding between the new parents and the child, and factors related to parenting tasks, among others.

Families with preschool-age children

Here the crisis is related to childhood and consists of the need for autonomy that children are beginning to have, and the possible difficulty of parents to control them.

In addition, socialization begins and there may be possible tensions due to imbalances in work and family roles.

Families with school-age children

The crisis of this stage is also related to the crisis of childhood, the beginning of school and what this entails (school work, the world outside the family).

Families with teenagers

In families with adolescents, the crisis is related to identity conflicts typical of adolescence.

These changes require that the family adjust to the beginning of puberty and sexual maturity, a greater need for independence, among other aspects.

Families as a launch pad

At this stage the crisis has to do with the departure of the children, the acceptance of independence and the decision-making of the children about work and education.

Middle-aged parents

The crisis of this stage is related to adjusting the identity of parents without children at home and assuming different roles (grandparents, retirees).

Family with elderly members

Finally, in this stage the strongest conflict is related to losses of different types: youth, vitality, health, couple. There is a confrontation with death.

Family cycle in marketing

In marketing the family life cycle is an independent variable that has often been used to explain consumer behaviors, especially spending behavior.

The stages of the family cycle correspond to the combinations of trends in a family’s purchasing power and consumer demand.

In this way, determining the family life cycle is also part of a segmentation by demographic criteria, which may include other aspects such as religion and age, among others.

For example, the priorities in terms of spending and saving behaviors, among others, are not the same for a couple without children as for a couple who have just had their first child, or for a couple whose children have left home.

Thus, certain types of products can be directed to each of these types of family, based on the stage in which your family is and the predictions about their most likely behaviors for this stage.


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