What Are Family Life Cycle Stages?

The stages of the family life cycle are independence, coupling, parenting, releasing of adult children, and senior life or retirement. These stages describe an individual’s emotional and intellectual progression through family life.

A person enters into the independence stage of the family life cycle when she enters into early adulthood and begins the process of becoming financially, socially and emotionally capable of supporting herself. This stage involves exploration of one’s career aspirations and personal interests.

During the coupling stage, people commit to being a part of a family other than the one they grew up with, whether it be through marriage or another form of committed union. People in this stage must get used to sometimes having to put another individual’s needs before their own. This requires making several lifestyle adjustments in areas such as finances, friendships and recreational activities.

The parenting stage spans the years from the children’s infancy through their adolescence. At the beginning of this stage, the parents learn how to assume parenting roles and how to adjust their lifestyles to make time for the kids. The stage that follows involves releasing the adult children to live on their own. During this stage, individuals adjust to not having the kids around and prepare for the possibility of grandchildren entering their lives. Finally, the senior life stage can involve aspects such as providing adult children with emotional support, life reflection and coping with the loss of a partner or other loved ones.