Aims: To investigate changes in household structure in rural South Africa over the period 1996â€”2003, a period marked by politico-structural change and an escalating HIV/AIDS epidemic. In particular, the authors examine whether there is dissolution of extended family living arrangements. Methods: Data from the Agincourt demographic surveillance system, in rural north-eastern South Africa, and the rural sub-samples of selected nationally representative data sets were used to compare changes in the cross-sectional distribution of household types. Surveillance system data were further analysed to estimate the transition probabilities between household types. The latent pressures for change within the Agincourt area were analysed by projecting the household transition probabilities forward and comparing the projected steady-state distributions to the current distributions. Results: The national surveys show dramatic changes in the social structure in rural areas, particularly an increase in the importance of single person households. These trends are not confirmed in the surveillance system data. The national ``changes'' can possibly be ascribed to changes in sampling frames or household definitions. The transition probabilities within the Agincourt area show considerable changes between household types, despite a slower change in the aggregate distributions. The most important projected long-run changes are an increase in the proportion of three-generation linear households. ``Simpler'' household types such as single person households and nuclear households will become relatively less common. Conclusions: The structure of households is evolving under the pressure of social change and increased mortality due to HIV/AIDS. There is no evidence, however, that the social fabric is unravelling or that individuals are becoming increasingly isolated residentially.