The family life cycle is a series of developmental stages marking key accomplishments and changes. These stages begin with the formation of a new family unit and last until the unit’s ending. The family life cycle is relevant to life-span human development because it highlights the intersection of individuals’ personal development with family responsibilities. The cycle also emphasizes changes over time in family structure and composition (the number, ages, genders of family members) as well as shifts in family members’ roles (each person’s behaviors and responsibilities).

This entry begins with details about family life cycle stages, followed by examples of the diverse array of topics that are pertinent to family life cycle considerations. Next is a critique of the family life cycle concept, pointing to ...

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