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family life cycle

Definition of Family Life Cycle

 (noun) The predictable steps and patterns a family experiences over time.

Example of Family Life Cycle

While different depending on location, one traditional cycle in the United States would be:

  1. A couple dates.
  2. Gets married.
  3. Has a family with young children.
  4. Couple reaches middle age dealing with aging parents and adolescent children.
  5. Children start dating.
  6. Children get married.
  7. Couple enter old age and become grandparents.

Family Life Cycle Pronunciation

Pronunciation Usage Guide

Syllabification: fam·i·ly life cy·cle

Audio Pronunciation

– American English
– British English

Phonetic Spelling

  • American English – /fAm-lee lIEf sIE-kuhl/
  • British English – /fAm-uh-lee lIEf sIE-kuhl/

International Phonetic Alphabet

  • American English – /ˈfæməli laɪf ˈsaɪkəl/
  • British English – /ˈfæmɪli laɪf ˈsaɪkl/

Usage Notes

  • Plural: family life cycles
  • The family life cycle changes dramatically when interrupted by death or divorce.
  • Also called family life course.

Related Quotation

  • “We are living, I believe, through a transitional and contested period of family history, a period after the modern family order, but before what we cannot foretell. Precisely because it is not possible to characterize with a single term the competing sets of family cultures that co-exist at present, I identify this family regime as post-modern. The post-modern family is not a new model of family life, not the next stage in an orderly progression of family history, but the stage when the belief in a logical progression of stages breaks down. Rupturing evolutionary models of family history and incorporating both experimental and nostalgic elements, ‘the’ post-modern family lurches forward and backward into an uncertain future” (Stacey 1990:18).

Additional Information

Related Terms


Stacey, Judith. 1990. Brave New Families: Stories of Domestic Upheaval in Late Twentieth Century America. New York: Basic Books.

Works Consulted

Griffiths, Heather, Nathan Keirns, Eric Strayer, Susan Cody-Rydzewski, Gail Scaramuzzo, Tommy Sadler, Sally Vyain, Jeff Bry, Faye Jones. 2016. Introduction to Sociology 2e. Houston, TX: OpenStax.

Kornblum, William. 2008. Sociology in a Changing World. 8th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Wikipedia contributors. (N.d.) Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. (https://en.wikipedia.org/).

Cite the Definition of Family Life Cycle

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “family life cycle.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved May 23, 2024 (https://sociologydictionary.org/family-life-cycle/).

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

family life cycle. (2013). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/family-life-cycle/

Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “family life cycle.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed May 23, 2024. https://sociologydictionary.org/family-life-cycle/.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

“family life cycle.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2013. Web. 23 May. 2024. <https://sociologydictionary.org/family-life-cycle/>.