Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Urban Studies


Urban Studies and Planning




Family -- United States, Metropolitan areas -- United States



Physical Description

3, xi, 145 leaves: ill. 28 cm.


Over the years there has been interest in the living arrangements of Americans and the factors which influence those arrangements. Researchers have considered the growth of families headed by women, household consisting of single individuals, and those composed of unrelated individuals. One area, however, on which little attention has been focused is the presence of extended family living, characterized by the subfamily. The aim of this dissertation is to establish if subfamilies are a random or systematic phenomenon, and to identify the factors responsible for the variations in its occurrences within and across U.S. metropolitan areas. A causal model which accounts for the systematic variations in the presence of the subfamily was developed and tested on the metropolitan and census tract levels. The technique of path analysis was employed and analysis was performed on two geographical levels (SMSA and census tract) using the 1980 census data to ascertain if conclusions were consistent at different levels of data aggregation. The variables employed in the analysis were grouped in four major categories--demographic, sociocultural, economic and housing characteristics. A major finding of this study is that the subfamily is systematically predicted by demographic, sociocultural and economic characteristics and not by the housing variables. It suggests that subfamily will exist regardless of the housing conditions. There were some differences and similarities in the results of the two geographical levels, but overall, the findings indicate that variations of subfamilies is consistent between the two aggregate levels. The model developed held fairly well as predicted except for the housing variables. The research findings suggest that subfamily may be both a voluntary and involuntary phenomenon. Given this, a number of questions were raised that must be addressed in determining whether subfamily living is a symptom of a major social problem or if it is an acceptable alternative family structure for some families in contemporary society. It might even represent both possibilities simultaneously. These questions cannot be addressed with the type of data used in this study. Future research should be directed toward addressing them. If subfamily living is determined to be a problem, future research should help planners and policy makers formulate and implement programs that will alleviate the negative consequences of subfamily life.


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Portland State University. School of Urban and Public Affairs.

Persistent Identifier