Solo-living in early adulthood : challenging family and household boundaries

Roona Simpson, Frances Wasoff, Lynn Jamieson

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


This paper draws on ongoing research comparing the experiences of men and women aged 25-44 living alone in rural and urban areas of Scotland. Increasing proportions of people are living alone, or solo living, at ages more conventionally associated with being partnered and raising children. While this trend is common to many countries acorss Europe, incidence does vary with rates of solo-living generally higher in Northern than Sourthern Europe, consistent with different patterns of leaving home and of relationship breakdown. This trend may be interpreted as an aspect of more general processes of social disintegration, with solo living acting as a signifier of greater individualisation. Yet solo living denominates a specific living arrangement rather than relationship status. Solos are not homogenous: as well as varying in terms of age, socio-economic circumstance and location, differences include partnership and parental status. Solo households therefore include those who are single, separated, divorced, or widowed as well as people who are parents or are in partnerships whose children or partners live elsewhere. Thus for many people living alone, family life is experienced across household boundaries. In addition to spatial boundaries, the relationships of solo livers’ may extend beyond conventional categories of ‘family’. This paper explores solo livers’ accounts of family life and relationships with those perceived as family, and future aspirations and expectations regarding partnership and parenting. It looks at how the different experiences and understandings of ‘family’ evident in these accounts fit with current assumptions about the causes of demographic change and trends in personal life. It concludes by considering the implications of the findings of this research to social theorising about individualisation, intimacy, identity, sense of risk and social change.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Event European Sociological Association (ESA) research network “sociology of family and intimate lives” - Helsinki, United Kingdom
Duration: 27 Aug 200829 Aug 2008


Conference European Sociological Association (ESA) research network “sociology of family and intimate lives”
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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