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Does Change in Family Structure Affect the Household Headship among Older Adults in India? A Gendered Perspective


Changing family structure from joint to nuclear posits a challenge among older people. Increasing prevalence of nuclear family promotes household headship among older adults but leaves them vulnerable as they have to live alone at older ages. Therefore, the study aims to estimate the trends and determine the factors associated with household headship among older adults from 1992-93 to 2015–16. The analysis of this paper is based on four rounds of the National Family Health Survey, which were conducted during the periods between 1992-93, 1998–99, 2005–06, and 2015–16, respectively. The study carried out bivariate and multivariate analysis to observe the association between outcome and independent variables. Results found that household headship among older adults had increased from 59.5% in 1992–93 to 67.8% in 2015–16. Further, the study found a rise in the proportion of nuclear families and household headship among older adults from 1992-93 to 2015–16. In older ages, household headship was more among older women than older men. The likelihood of household headship among older adults in a joint family is low as compared to household headship in a nuclear family. While the rise in household headship among older adults may be attributable to a variety of socio-economic influences, it has been noted that household headship among older adults has varied between men and women and by type of family structure. Moreover, there was a clear relationship between headship and wealth status of a household.

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Availability of Data and Material

This study was based on a large dataset that is publicly available on DHS website ( conducted by the MOHFW and International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS) in India with ethical standards being complied with including informed consent obtained from participants.

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Conceived and designed the research paper: SS and SKS; analysed the data: PK and NP; Contributed agents/materials/analysis tools: SS and PK; Wrote the manuscript: SC and RP, Refined the manuscript: SS and SKS.

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Correspondence to Pradeep Kumar.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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No experimental treatment was conducted on either human or animal subjects in this study.

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Srivastava, S., Chauhan, S., Patel, R. et al. Does Change in Family Structure Affect the Household Headship among Older Adults in India? A Gendered Perspective. Ageing Int 47, 1–19 (2022).

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  • Household headship
  • Older men
  • Older women
  • India
  • Family structure