This study conceptually and empirically develops an improved approach for classifying full-nest households. Unlike existing life-cycle models, this study separates traditional full-nest couples who marry and have children at a young age from those who delay marriage and childbearing until their 30s. Nontraditional delayed full-nest spouses held nontraditional sex role norms and values and experienced greater work and time pressures. They also consumed more healthy foods and beverages, avoided convenience and junk foods, but consumed more meals prepared away from home, as well as alcoholic beverages, than their traditional counterparts. While extant life-cycle approaches use age of head of household to separate school-age and older full-nest families, this study uses the transitions of the youngest child to school age, and then to teenage years. This distinction more effectively captures life-style and consumption differences than does the traditional life-cycle approach. Overall, this new full-nest classification scheme outperforms existing life-cycle approaches in identifying unique sex-role norms and values profiles as well as household food and beverage consumption patterns. It also captures meaningful and significant differences, in dollar values of home entertainment devices and furniture and of major durable assets not uncovered by previous research. Based on these findings, it is recommended that this full-nest classification approach be incorporated into extant life-cycle models. © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.