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Tuesday, 07 March 2023 15:35
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Changes in family structure in rural area of Red river Delta

(PTOJ) - Profound changes have taken place in the family structure in the Red River Delta over the past 20 years due to the process of urban growth and changes in socio-economic-cultural conditions in the region. This article analyzes the change in family structure in terms of family size, structure, function, and family relationship, contributing to clearly identifying the typical forms and values of the family in rural areas nowadays.

Along with the changes in family functions, the family structure has also continuously changed over time, as well as from one society to another. In modern societies, a trend of change in family structure could be clearly seen. That is the proportion of extended families has been decreasing while the proportion of nuclear families has been increasing. The nuclear family model is becoming the dominant type of family in modern societies.

The changes in family structure in the rural area of the Red River Delta (RRD) analyzed in this article are based on the analysis of quantitative survey data of 1000 households in 8 communes: Tam Thuan and Van Nam communes (Phuc Tho district), Ta Thanh Oai and Van Phuc communes (Thanh Tri district), Hanoi city; Dien Xa and Tan Thanh communes (Nam Truc district), Xuan Tan and Xuan Thanh communes (Xuan Truong district), Nam Dinh province in 2020.

1. Current situation of change in the family structure

Family size

Family size in the rural areas of the RRD has changed according to the trend of decreasing average number of people in the household. The calculations from the Population and Housing Census data shows that on average, in 1999 each household had 4.1 people in the RRD rural area, and has decreased to 3.7 in 2009 and to 3.4 people in 2019.

The survey data demonstrate that rural Hanoi, Vinh Phuc, and Quang Ninh are three localities with a household size higher than the average of the whole rural area in the RRD. It shows that the average household size in this area depends not only on the level of economic development of each locality, but also on many other factors, such as housing conditions, cultural characteristics, immigration status, and/or age-gender structure.

The results of the survey of rural households in the RRD indicate similarities with the national survey data. Accordingly, the average number of people in a household is 3.6 people. The minimum number of people in the surveyed households is 1 and the maximum is 10 people. The data also shows that the 4-person household is the most popular model, with as many as 23.8% of households being 4-person households. The number of households with 7 or more members is very low.

Thus, the rural family in the RRD has gradually shifted from the traditional family model (a large number of people, multigenerational) to the modern family model with fewer members.

Structure of the number of people in household

According to the results of the 2019 Population and Housing Census, the number of households with 2-4 people in the rural areas of the RRD account for 69% of the region, the third highest compared to rural areas in other regions (after the Southeast and Southwest regions)(1). The proportion of single households (1 person) in the region is the highest compared to other rural areas of the country (12.2%), and nearly 3 percentage points higher than in the 2009 Census (9.3 %), of which the proportion is higher in rural areas (12.2%) than in urban areas (9.7%).

The results of the rural survey in the RRD are similar to the data of national surveys in regards to the number of people in a household. Accordingly, households with 2-4 people account for the highest proportion (65.6%), households with 5-6 people rank second (25.4%); households with 1 person account for the lowest percentage (6.4%).

Household-dependent population structure

The dependency ratio is an indicator to assess the burden of the working-age population on the household. This indicator reflects the impact of fertility and mortality rates, and other factors on the household structure. When households have an increase in the proportion of people of working age, it is a favorable condition for households in which to develop their household economy and increase their per capita income, and vice versa, when the proportion of people of dependent age (besides working age) increases, so does the burden on the households, as well as on the social security program.

Analysis of survey data shows that there are 406 (40.7%) households without dependent children from 0 to 14 years old. The number of households without elderly people aged 65 and over is 772 households indicating a rate of 77.4%. The proportion of households with 1 elderly person is 17.1% and 2 elderly people are 5.5%. Thus, the proportion of children under 15 years old in surveyed households is 59.3% and the rate of elderly people is 22.6%. Overall, the dependency ratio (children 0-14 years old and elderly people 65 years and older) of surveyed households is 71.7%.

The average number of people of working age in surveyed households is 2.4 people. The number of people of working age in the household is distributed from 0 to 7 people, half (50.7%) of the households have 2 people of working age and this is the highest rate. 5.2% of surveyed households do not have people of working age.

Chart 2 presents the correlation results between the number of people of working age (15-64 years old) and the number of dependents (outside working age) of surveyed households. Accordingly, 24.4% of households have a balance between the ratio of employees and dependents (1 worker takes care of 1 dependent, 2 workers take care of 2 dependents etc.). The number of households with a larger number of employees than dependents is 44%. The analysis results show that with 32% of households having fewer employees than dependents, it is a burden on households in rural areas in ensuring social welfare for dependent members of the household.

Compared with the 2006 Vietnam Family Survey, the proportion of households with more workers than dependents was 11 percentage points lower, dropping from 55% to 44%, and the proportion of households with fewer workers than dependents increased by 7 percentage points, from 25% to 32%. Thereby, it shows that the household structure in the rural areas of the RRD has changed because a number of people of working age can migrate to work in places outside the locality of residence, thereby leading to the household having more dependents (elderly and children) than people of working age.

Change in marital relationship

Marriage reflects a system of familial material and spiritual values, so marriage best reflects the nature of the family structure. In Vietnam, marriage is a fairly common phenomenon. However, at present, more and more people among the younger population are delaying marriage and childbearing. This leads to big changes in family structure on many levels compared to how things once were structured. In which, the meaning of marriage has changed, manifested in reducing the role of parents and relatives and increasing the role of the individual in deciding marriage(2).

Besides the numbers proving the inevitable permanence of the family, it is still possible to see some instability in the family structure in the RRD rural areas through the divorce and separation rates of the population aged 15 years and over, 0.8% and 0.3% respectively at both survey times.

2. Change in Family structure and the emergence of new family models

Along with the trend of smaller family sizes, new types of families have also appeared in the RRD rural areas. These include nonmarital families, multicultural families (families with foreign spouses), single families, same-sex families, etc. According to the Law on Marriage and Family approved by the National Assembly in 2013, these types of families are not yet recognized in Vietnam. The recognition and assessment of these types of families are still open, but from the perspective of scientific research, it still needs to be recognized as a new phenomenon in the history of family development in Vietnam.

Nonmarital family

The issue of the nonmarital family (without marriage registration) still exists in the marriage relationships of Vietnamese people. Unregistered marriage is quite common due to various reasons such as being underaged for marriage registration (child marriage), backward manners and customs, lack of legal understanding, and lack of law compliance and awareness.

When comparing regions, studies show that there are regional differences in the rate of unregistered marriage among surveyed people. A study analyzing data from the “Basic survey on the status of gender equality and the impact of policies on women and men for policy-making in Vietnam” in 2004 - 2006 showed that the Southern region has the highest rate of unregistered marriage. Meanwhile, the rate in the RRD is the lowest(3). The 2006 national survey on Vietnamese families also confirmed this pattern, with the Mekong Delta having the highest rate of unregistered marriage, accounting for 39.5%, followed by the Northwest at 30%; followed by 3 regions of the Southeast, the Central Highlands, and the South Central Coast with the rate of 21.2%, 20.8%, and 19.3% respectively. The Northeast region accounts for 14.5% and the North Central region has 9.8%. The lowest is in the RRD region with only 2.3%(4).

Deficient family

The divorce rate of Vietnamese families has increase rapidly in recent years, possibly due to the independence of economic conditions, so divorces are easier to proceed with. An increase in the divorce rate of married couples means an increase in the proportion of deficient families with only one parent raising children.

According to the General Statistics Office in 2015, the RRD region has 3686 cases/24101 cases, accounting for 15.29% of the whole country, ranking 3/6 regions (after the Mekong River Delta and the Southeast region).

Single parent family

A single parents household is the state in which a person who is unmarried (unmarried) but has children. The family form consisting of a single mother (not married but having children) is a chosen direction by some women and forms a type of family with its own characteristics. These people may not need a wedding ceremony in the presence of the community, without a marriage certificate with the support of the law, single mothers are confident in their ability to create their own happiness. The rural people of the RRD have become more sympathetic with the concept of single-family and less strict as the the number of single mother households has increased in society.

The process of Change in Family Structure in the rural areas of the RRD is trending towards smaller family sizes, nuclearization accompanied by a reduction in the number of people in the family, a decrease in the dependency ratio of the young population, and an increase in the dependency ratio of the elderly, as well as the tendency for the emergence of many new types of families. The multiple templates of family types in the rural areas of theRRD is a feature of the modern industrialized civilized society, which has replaced the homogeneity of the traditional family pattern of the previous agricultural-civilized society. However, it can be said that the function of the family and the role and position of the family in society still has its original meaning.

Through analyzing the changing aspects of the family, it can be seen that the changes in family structure in the rural areas of the RRD has a relationship with factors such as industrialization and modernization; socio-economic changes; urbanization; guidelines and policies of the Party and the State. These factors affect family structure both positively and negatively. Along with the trends ofpositive change in line with the general requirements of industrialization and modernization, the change in family structure in the rural areas of the RRD also encounters fundamental challenges on its path of development.



(1) General Statistics Office: Survey on population change and family planning on April 1, 2018.

(2) Vu Tuan Huy: Problems of the Vietnamese family in the process of social change in the direction of industrialization and modernization, Journal of Sociology, No.2, 2006, p. 13-20.

(3) Le Ngoc Van: Family and family change in Vietnam, Social Science Publishing House, Hanoi, 2011.

(4) Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, General Statistics Office, UNICEF, Institute of Family and Gender: Results of the 2006 Vietnam Family Survey, Hanoi.


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