Indicators of the social context of families will need to be developed with consideration of the life cycle stages of the family, determined by the presence and ages of the children in the family. The stages that we recommend include a) conception and the prenatal period and, b) families with preschool-aged children (ages 0-5), c) families with elementary school-aged children (ages 6-11), d) families with children in middle and high school (ages 12-17), and e) families with young adults (ages 18-24) (see Chart B). Obviously, many families have children who fit in several age categories, but it is useful to consider special situations and contexts that families typically experience when they have any children at each of these stages.
We have chosen to focus on children as the determinant of life cycle states, because families with children are the focus of the project. Nevertheless, it is also important to note how the age of the parents typically interacts with these life cycle stages, and how that also influences the needs of families.
Each of these stages can be sub-divided into two stages. These stages (0-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-11, 12-14, 15-17, and 18-24) reflect more finely detailed developmental stages, and may represent useful categories when considering varied aspects of family context, such as parental employment patterns, monitoring, and parent-child communication.
Data are not currently collected consistently for many potential indicators according to these developmental stages, or by the more finely detailed age breaks, which will become apparent once the data for recommended indicators are made available. Nevertheless, conceptually, these categories can guide thinking and planning.