The relationship between household structures and everyday adaptation and livelihood strategies in northwestern Pakistan

Rebecca Nixon, Zhao Ma, Trevor Birkenholtz, Bushra Khan, Laura Zanotti, Linda S. Lee, Ishaq Ahmad Mian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The interactions between household size, capital, and adaptation to social-ecological change has been widely studied; however, little is known about the differences in everyday adaptation to social-ecological change across household structures. Joint family households are increasing in contexts where the nuclear family had previously been the norm, and remains a prevalent structure throughout the world. Thus, it is important to understand how these structures influence adaptation decision-making processes and outcomes. We draw on a survey of 448 self-identified household heads in three communities in northwestern Pakistan to assess everyday adaptation to social-ecological change. We demonstrate that livelihood and adaptation strategies vary across joint and nuclear family household structures because, in part, of joint family households’ greater access to natural and human capital in comparison to nuclear family households. Finally, household livelihood decision makers often include other family members to expand beyond the oftenassumed husband-wife dyad. Our work highlights how everyday adaptations are expressions of existing opportunities in the space in which households are located, access to capital and resources that differ across household structures, and of various dynamics associated with household decision making. This points to the need for a nuanced understanding of how household structure influences everyday adaptation to social-ecological change and thereby shows the ways in which adaptive capacity is embedded within existing social systems and relationships, such as household structures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number31
JournalEcology and Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology

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