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Family characteristics and transitions

Families, household and family characteristics, relationship history and expectations, fertility expectations, family formation and dissolution data

Reference period
2012 - 2013

Family characteristics

The Family Characteristics topic provides data about families, including couples living in de facto and registered marriages, step and blended families, one parent families and visiting arrangements of children with parents who live elsewhere (refer to the Glossary for definitions of these terms). It provides information about the composition of households and families, and the characteristics of people within them, to better understand how families are changing and how to provide support to them.

The information provided in this topic will be of value to policy makers, researchers and demographers who are interested in understanding changes to family composition.

Households

In 2012-13, there were 8.9 million households in Australia. Just under three quarters (74%) were family households, 23% were lone person households, and 3% were group households (Table 1).

Most Australians (20.1 million people, or 88% of the Australian population living in private dwellings) were living in family households. The vast majority of families lived in households that contained only one family (96% of all family households in 2012-13) (Table 1).

Around 2.1 million people lived alone, 1.1 million females and 1.0 million males (or 9% of the Australian population living in private dwellings). The proportion of lone person households was very similar to that in 2009-10, however it had decreased to 23% from 25% in 2006-07 (Table 1).

The proportion of people living in group households remained steady (Table 1).

Families

Of the 6.7 million families in Australia in 2012-13, 85% (5.7 million) were couple families, 14% (909,000) were one parent families and 2% (107,000) were other families (Table 1) (refer to the Glossary for definitions of these terms).

Families with resident children of any age made up 58% (3.9 million) of all families in 2012-13. Of these families, 78% had dependent children, while 22% had non-dependent children only. There were 2.8 million families with at least one child aged 0 to 17 years (41% of all families) (Table 1).

There were 1.2 million families where the youngest child was aged under 5 years. There were more couple families with resident children of any age (3.0 million families) than couple families without children of any age (2.7 million families). The proportion of couple families both with and without children of any age remained relatively stable since 2006-07 (Tables 8 and 1).

While the proportion of couple families without resident children remained stable since 2006-07, the composition of these families changed. There was a higher proportion of couples without children where the female partner was aged 25 to 34 years in 2012-13 than in 2006-07 (20% compared with 16%), and a lower proportion where the female partner was aged 45 to 54 years (13% in 2012-13 compared with 15% in 2006-07) (Tables 1 and 4).

One parent families with resident children of any age represented 14% of all families in 2012-13, which was the same as in 2009-10 and 2006-07 (Table 1).

The following diagram displays the relationship between family composition groupings of key household, family and person estimates.

Households, families and persons, 2012-13

Diagram displaying summary household, family and person estimates

Households, families and persons, 2012-13

Flow chart of Australian households, families and persons, starting from ‘Australia’ with 8,890,000 households, 6,705,000 families and 22,819,000 persons; breaking down into lone person households, with 2,068,000 persons, group households of 267,000 households and 616,000 persons, and family households. Family households contain one family households of 6,413,000 households, 6,413,000 families, 19,324,000 persons, and multi-family households of 142,000 households, 296,000 families and 811,000 persons. Family households, in addition to couples, children and other family members, family households may also include unrelated individuals. Therefore, the number of persons in family households will not equal the number of persons in families.

Breaking down from family and multi-family households is couple families, with 5,691,000 families and 17,256,000 persons, one parent families with 909,000 families and 2,489,000 persons, and other families with 107,000 families and 234,000 persons. Couple families and one parent families may include ‘other related individuals’ but excludes ‘unrelated individuals’, as defined in the glossary. Other families refers to families where there are no partners or children, for example, adult siblings living together without a parent, but excludes unrelated individuals.

Couple families splits into couple families with no children with 2,725,000 families and 5,527,000 persons, flowing further into couple families with children aged 0 to 17 years living elsewhere with 142,000 families; couple families with dependent children, children under 15 years of age or full-time dependent students aged 15-24 years, with 2,441,000 families 9,962,000 persons (this includes non-dependent children in families with dependent children as well as other related individuals), and 4,618,000 dependent children. This flows to couple families with children aged 0 to 17 years living elsewhere of 147,000 families; and couple families with non-dependent children only, with 526,000 families, and 1,765,000 persons, flowing to couple families with children aged 0 to 17 years living elsewhere with 48,000 families.

One parent families breaks into one parents families with dependent children (children under 15 years of age, or full-time dependent students aged 15-24 years) with 580,000 families, 1,750,000 persons, including non-dependent children in families with dependent children as well as other related individuals, and 1,012,000 dependent children. This flows to one parent families with children aged 0 to 17 years living elsewhere with 58,000 families. One parent families also flows to one parent families with non-dependent children only, with 331,000 families and 737,000 persons, flowing to one parent families with children aged 0 to 17 years living elsewhere with 47,000 families.
  1. In addition to couples, parents, children and other family members, family households may also include unrelated individuals. Therefore, the number of persons in family households will not equal the number of persons in families.
  2. These families may include 'other related individuals', but excludes 'unrelated individuals', as defined in the Glossary.
  3. Refers to families where there are no partners or children (e.g. adult siblings living together without a parent), but excludes unrelated individuals.
  4. Includes non-dependent children in families with dependent children as well as other related individuals.
     

Family structure

Of all families in 2012-13 with resident children aged 0 to 17 years (2.8 million), 81% were couple families and 19% were one parent families. The proportion of couple and one parent families stayed relatively stable since 2006-07 (Table 8).

One parent families were predominately lone mother families (16% of all families with children aged 0 to 17 years) rather than lone father families (3% of all families with children aged 0 to 17 years). Again, this proportion of lone mother and lone father families stayed relatively stable since 2006-07 (Table 8).

Of all couple families with resident children (including both dependent and non-dependent children), couple families where the youngest child was aged 0 to 4 years made up the highest proportion (34%). In contrast, the youngest child was 0 to 4 years in 16% of one parent families. The highest proportion of one parent families comprised those where the youngest resident child was aged 25 years and over (23%), compared with 9% of couple families for the same age group (Table 4).

Intact families are those in which the children are the natural or adopted children of both parents and there are no step children. Of families with children aged 0 to 17 years in which the youngest resident child was aged 0 to 4 years, most were intact couple families (81%). The proportions for intact families with older resident children were lower:

  • of families with children 0 to 17 years in which the youngest child was aged 5 to 9 years, 72% were intact families
  • of families with children 0 to 17 years in which the youngest child was aged 10 to 14 years, 68% were intact families
  • of families with children 0 to 17 years in which the youngest child was aged 15 to 17 years, 60% were intact families (Table 8 and Graph 1).
     
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  1. Step family estimate has a relative standard error of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution.
  2. Blended family estimate has a relative standard error of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution.
  3. Blended family estimate is nil or rounded to zero (including null cells).

Employment status of parents

Just over 3.4 million children of any age (48%) lived in couple families where both parents were employed. Of these children, 42% lived in families where their mother was employed full-time, compared with 58% in families where their mother was employed part-time (Table 7).

Of all dependent children, 2.8 million (51%) lived in couple families where both parents were employed. Around 869,000 dependent children lived in lone mother families while 143,000 lived in lone father families. Of the dependent children in these one parent families, just over half (54%) had an employed parent (Table 7).

There were 676,000 dependent children (12% of all dependent children) living in families without an employed resident parent, although in some cases, other people in these families were employed. There were 562,000 dependent children (10% of all dependent children) living in a family where no one was employed (Table 7).

Children with parents living elsewhere

Of the 5.2 million children aged 0 to 17 years in 2012-13, 1.1 million (21%) had a natural parent living elsewhere. Of these children, 75% lived in one parent families, 10% in step families and 12% in blended families. Children were more likely to live with their mother than their father after parents separated. Of these children who had a natural parent living elsewhere, almost four in five (79%) had a father living elsewhere (Table 9).

Forty five per cent of children aged 0 to 17 years with a natural parent living elsewhere (501,000) saw this parent at least once per fortnight in 2012-13, while 26% rarely saw them (less than once per year or never). The pattern of regular contact that children had with their natural parent living elsewhere remained relatively stable over time, with just under half having contact at least once per fortnight (43% in 2006-07, 48% in 2009-10 and 45% in 2012-13). The proportion of children who rarely had contact with their natural parent living elsewhere (less than once per year or never) remained relatively stable over time as well (28% in 2006-07, 24% in 2009-10 and 26% in 2012-13) (Table 10).

As children aged, the likelihood of having at least fortnightly contact with their natural parent living elsewhere decreased. In 2012-13, 54% of children aged 0 to 9 years, 43% of children aged 10 to 14 years and 35% of children aged 15 to 17 years saw their natural parent living elsewhere at least once a fortnight (Graph 2 and Table 10).

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Nearly half (48%) of children aged 5 to 14 years with a natural parent living elsewhere stayed overnight with that parent at least once per year. The proportions were lower both for younger children aged 0 to 4 years (34%) and for older children aged 15 to 17 years (36%) (Table 10).

Family transitions

The Family Transitions topic provides information about relationship history and expectations, children born and fertility expectations. These data provide insight into family formation and dissolution, and how expectations regarding marriage and childbearing may be changing over time. This information will be of value to policy makers, researchers and demographers as well as the general community who are interested in understanding how families are changing and responding to societal influences.

Couple relationships

Of the 17.6 million adults in Australia living in private dwellings in 2012-13, 64% were currently married, either in a registered marriage (52% or 9.2 million people), or a de facto marriage (12% or 2.1 million people) (Table 11).

Just over 55% (9.7 million) of adults had only been in a registered marriage, while 15% of adults had only been in a de facto marriage. Eleven per cent of people had been in at least one registered marriage and at least one de facto marriage. Around 2.7 million adults (16%) had never been in a couple relationship. Most people in the 18 to 24 year age group (69%) had never been in a couple relationship, a similar proportion to 2006-07 (70%). Three per cent of people aged 65 years and over had never been in a couple relationship, which is the same as in 2006-07 (Table 11).

Experiences of partnering varied with age. A higher proportion of people aged under 35 years had only been in de facto marriage(s) (29%), compared with those people aged 35 years and over (9%). For all people aged 35 years and over, 69% had only been in a registered marriage (although they may have lived with their partner prior to entering a registered marriage), a decrease from 75% in 2006-07 (Table 11 and Graph 3).

Just over half of those aged 75 years and over (51%) were currently in a registered marriage and 39% of this age group had been with their partner for 50 years or more (Table 11).

Nearly half (46%) of all those currently in a registered marriage cohabited with their partner prior to marriage, compared with 39% in 2006-07 (Table 11).

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  1. Both registered and de facto marriages estimate has a relative standard error greater than 50% and is considered too unreliable for general use.
  2. De facto marriage(s) only estimate has a relative standard error greater than 50% and is considered too unreliable for general use.
     

Of the 2.1 million people over the age of 18 years who were in a de facto marriage in 2012-13, 45% expected to enter into a registered marriage with their current partner. This expectation was higher in younger people, where just under two thirds of those aged 34 years or less who were currently in a de facto marriage (63%) expected to enter into a registered marriage with their current partner (Table 11).

Almost 27% or 574,000 people over the age of 18 currently in a de facto marriage did not expect to enter into a registered marriage with their current de facto partner, with nearly half aged between 35 and 54 years. Around 481,000 or 22% of people in a de facto marriage did not know whether they would enter into a registered marriage with their partner (Table 11).

Transitions

The proportion of adults whose parents had divorced or separated during their childhood (before they turned 18) increased from 15% in 2006-07 to 18% in 2012-13. In addition, 8% of adults reported that during their childhood a parent had died, a decrease from 9% in 2006-07. Reported parental death during childhood increased with age (6% of 18 to 24 year olds and 5% of 25 to 34 years olds, up to 13% for both the 65 to 74 and 75 years and over age groups) (Table 15).

In 2012-13, 31% of people aged 18 to 34 had never left their parental home to live elsewhere. This was an increase from 27% in 2006-07. For people aged 18 to 24 years, 58% of males and 47% of females had never left home, a significant increase for males since 2006-07 (49%). These proportions decreased for those aged 25 to 34 years, where 17% of males and 16% of females had never left home. The reason most frequently given by young adults for still living with their parents was financial (35%) (Table 14).

Of the 3.9 million people aged 18 to 34 years old who had left their parental home, 31% moved out so they could be independent. Other common reasons for moving out of home were to study (20%) or to live with their partner or get married (19%). These were also the three main reasons in 2006-07 (Table 14).

Children born

In 2012-13, 11.7 million or 66% of the adult population in Australia in private dwellings had had natural children. Of these people, 42% had had two children, while 37% had had three or more children (Table 12).

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  1. Two estimate has a relative standard error of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution.
  2. Three or more estimate has a relative standard error of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution.
     

People in the older age groups were more likely to have had larger families. Thirty per cent of parents aged 35 to 44 and 38% of parents aged 45 to 54 who had had natural children had had three or more children, compared with 58% of parents aged 75 and over (Table 12).

Females (42%) were more likely than males (20%) to have been aged less than 25 years when they had their first child. This proportion decreased to 30% for females who were aged between 25 to 29 years, and it increased to 33% for males (Table 12).

Nearly 7% of all people aged 18 and over who had had natural children were aged less than 20 years when they had their first child. The proportion for females was higher than males (11% compared with 2%) (Table 12).

Fertility expectations

More than one in five women aged 35 to 49 years who had never had children expected to have children in the future (21%), which is a significant rise from one in seven in 2006-07 (15%). Of those women aged 18 to 29 years who had never had children, just over three quarters (76%) expected to have children, which was similar to 2006-07 (77%) (Table 13 and Graph 5).

Of those women who had already had children, the proportion who expected to have more children decreased from 61% of those aged 18 to 24 years to 4% of those aged 35 to 49 years (Table 13 and Graph 5).

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Data downloads

Households, families and persons, selected characteristics–2012–13, 2009–10, 2006–07

Households, families and persons, selected characteristics by state

All families, family composition–2012–13, 2009–10, 2006–07

All families, family life stage type–2012–13, 2009–10, 2006–07

All children, family type by age of child–2012–13, 2009–10, 2006–07

Partners in couple families and lone parents, family type and relationship in household by age–2012–13, 2009–10, 2006–07

All children, employment status of parents by family type, by age of child

Families with children aged 0–17 years, family structure by age of youngest child–2012–13, 2009–10, 2006–07

Children aged 0–17 years, whether has natural parent living elsewhere, by age and family structure

Children aged 0–17 years with a natural parent living elsewhere, contact arrangements by age of child–2012–13, 2009–10, 2006–07

Persons aged 18 years and over, couple relationships by age–2012–13, 2006–07

Persons aged 18 years and over who have had natural children, by age and sex

Females aged 18–49 years, expectations of having children by age and marital status–2012–13, 2006–07

Persons aged 18–34 years, main reason for not leaving parental home and main reason for first leaving home–2012–13, 2006–07

Persons aged 18 years and over, parental transitions in childhood by age–2012–13, 2006–07

Data item list