Seven Types of Residential Households

© 2010 by Terry Prince, CPO-CD®

The upcoming US Census and my upcoming teleclass presentation Life Stages and Transitions for the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization (NSGCD) have got me thinking about households.

Households have changed substantially in the last 50 years and I am sure they will change in the future. Here is my take on what a household is from the scope of a professional organizer and coach working and residing in a developed nation. These households’ definitions are helpful to discern as they involve specific challenges, legal and financial matters.

Single Member Households: These are generally the easiest to discern. Only one person resides in the home.

21st Century Residence:  Nuclear, Blended, Single- parent (head/householder[i]) and Domestic Partnership Household: This is a traditional nuclear[ii], blended family household or single parent household. This home can be rented, mortgaged or owned. This type of residence includes a main client or couple and their assorted family members.  Marriage, domestic partnership, and familial ties relate the family members. This can include adoption, foster care, or conservatorship. This household can also be a convenient living arrangement of no more than one elder or younger relative, sibling or parent. Larger mixes will fall into the next type of family – Extended or Joint.

Extended or Joint Household: The next type of household is the extended, complex or joint family where multiple families (usually somehow related or employed in some capacity) with one or several “heads” of household’s reside. This can be a large estate, ranch or farm property that is frequently  inherited. This household can also be mortgaged or owned by a celebrity or high level executive for themselves or others. The property may also be acquired through the pooling of joint funds to make the rental or mortgage payment. Floors or wings can separate the residences. This household can include polyamorists[iii], HUF’s[iv], where space is often allocated into communal and separate.

Shared Household: A shared household is where platonic roommates or housemates share a home or apartment. It is my observation that the household is more likely to have similar age dwellers. These household members make a definitive choice to reside together in shared living usually with separate sleeping space.

In-Home Caretaker Household: This is the situations when an elderly person or physically disabled person has a caretaker or relative residing in their home or apartment for daily or occasional assistance. The elderly or disabled individual usually has more rights of ownership than the caretaker.  In some cases, the caretaker may have specialized legal rights such as temporary medical or durable power of attorney for healthcare for the client.

Provider Managed Household: An individual or corporation can run these households. On the simplistic side, they can be a “landlord” who lets out a room and provides 1 – 3 meals a day. This may be the case in a boarding home.  Most Provider Managed Homes today are board and care, homeless shelters, independent living facilities for adults with disabilities, assisted living, group home (adult or child focused facility), long-term convalescent or nursing homes. The provider-managed homes provide a wide range of specialized services (assistance with activities of daily living, food service, cleaning of dwelling, medical or mental health supervision) on a fee or contracted basis for the client. The shared or common area environments are generally more affected by the needs of the youngest or higher level age groups. The individuals in these households are often required to abide by the rules of the provider.

Collective Living Household: A seventh type of residence for consideration is likely to be a collective or group living such as a dormitory- based community (commune, religious order, educational institution).  This type of residence can include senior independent living facilities, cohousing and even single room occupancy (SRO[v]) apartment dwelling and hotels offering long term residence stays (when dining and possession storage privileges are part of the equation) are included in this group . Individuals choosing to live in this type of household structure are generally able to function relatively well on their own. These types of living arrangements are likely to have strict defined rules and expectations of those that dwell within the “walls” of the community.

Can you think of any more specialized or subsets of types of households in developed nations? What am I leaving out? Please let me know by sending an email to

[i] US census changed head of household to householder in 1980.

[ii] Nuclear Family – definition

[iii] Polyamory,

[iv] HUF – Hindu Undivided Family

[v] SRO -Single Room Occupancy


Filed under Caregiving, Client Management Strategies, Communication Strategies, Knowledge, Philosophy, Terms

3 responses to “Seven Types of Residential Households

  1. I guess that cohousing would be included under “Extended or Joint Household.” Perhaps, if you get some information about cohousing, you could specifically mention it in this section, so as not to leave it out.

    • Hi Jay:

      Thanks for your contribution. I believe Cohousing would go under Collective Household as it is a community that shares a common kitchen but the residents are not usually related from unit to unit. I imagine it is possible that some cross over could happen between extended or joint household.

      As always, I appreciate your insight. Where are you now?

  2. Quality Senior Independent Living is critically important. Thank you for the great information. I appreciate that you took the time to write such an interesting article.


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