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4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 1994  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 27/05/1994   
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Contents >> Family >> Living Arrangements: Changes in living arrangements

Living Arrangements: Changes in living arrangements

Between 1976 and 1991 the proportions of people living alone and of lone parents with dependant children each increased by 4%. The proportion of couples with dependant children decreased.

Changes in living arrangements and family characteristics over the last two decades are the outcome of various demographic and social trends. Couples are marrying later, increasingly after a period of living together; women are having fewer children, later in life; the proportion of one parent families, most of which are headed by a woman, has increased; and the ageing of the population, coupled with the longer life expectancy of women over men, has resulted in an increase in the proportion of one person households.

Associated with these changes has been a decline in average household size. The number of households increased by 35% between 1976 and 1991 while the population increased by 24%.

HOUSEHOLD TYPE(a)

1976
1981
1986
1991
Household type
%
%
%
%

One person
15.7
18.0
18.5
19.8
Group
(b)
(b)
4.1
4.5
Family
84.3(b)
82.0(b)
77.3
75.7
'000
'000
'000
'000
Total households
4,140.5
4,668.9
5,187.4
5,586.7

(a) Excludes caravans etc. in caravan parks.
(b) Group households and family households were not separately identified in 1976 and 1981.

Source: Census of Population and Housing

Data sources and classification

ABS family and household data are available from a number of different sources. While the Labour Force Survey provides a consistent annual time series for the 1980s and 1990s, the Census of Population and Housing provides a more detailed classification of different family types. Extensive changes were made to the classification in 1991 to reflect the contemporary composition of families. These changes have, however, impaired comparability with previous censuses. Time series comparisons are only possible back to 1976 and then only for broad aggregates. The 1992 Survey of Families in Australia provides a wide range of data, not available from other collections, about the characteristics of families and family members, and the nature of family support.

In all three sources, people are classified to different types of households and families on the basis of their usual living arrangements and their relationships to other household members. Households comprise persons living alone or two or more people who share a dwelling. Families consist of two or more related people within a household. A household composed of one person or of unrelated people is termed a non-family household. A family household may contain more than one family.


One person households
The proportion of one person households has increased in the last 15 years from 16% in 1976 to 20% in 1991. Lower marriage rates and increased divorce rates have contributed to this increase, but the most important factor is the ageing of the population. In 1991, 39% of persons living alone were aged 65 years or more and 74% of them were women. The greater proportion of women living alone at older ages reflects the longer life expectancy of women, 80.4 years compared to 74.5 years for men in 1992 (see Health - National summary tables).

The growth in one person households is expected to continue with the continued ageing of the population. In 1991 there were 1.9 million people aged 65 years and over. By 2041 it is projected that the population in this age group will have almost trebled to 5.5 million (see Projections of the aged population).

ONE PERSON HOUSEHOLDS, 1991



Source: Census of Population and Housing



Group households
Group households accounted for 5% of all households in 1991. The age structure of people living in group households was much younger than that of one person households. In 1991, 72% of people in group households were aged 15-34 years and 5% were aged 65 years or more. In reflection of their young age profile, the proportion of people in group households who had never married was 75% in 1991. 56% of people in group households were male and 74% of group households contained only two persons.

Many factors are related to the formation and dissolution of group households. For many young adults, sharing a group house represents a period of transition between living with parents and the formation of a partnership. The move away from the parental home may be associated with a desire for greater independence or may be necessary to be near a place of employment or education. In 1991, 13% of people living in group households were full-time students.

GROUP HOUSEHOLDS, 1991



Source: Census of Population and Housing



Family households
In the 1991 Census, 4.3 million family households were identified, 99% of which contained only one family. Family households represented 76% of all households. While most families in 1991 were couple families, the proportion of these families had decreased slightly since 1976 (from 88% to 85%) with a compensating increase (from 6% to 9%) observed in the proportion of one parent families with dependant children. The proportion of families consisting of a couple only increased from 28% in 1976 to 31% in 1991, reflecting both the decisions of younger couples not to have children, or to delay child bearing, and increased life expectancies resulting in couples spending longer together after their children have left home.

FAMILY TYPE(a)

1976
1981
1986
1991
Family type
%
%
%
%

One parent with dependants
6.5
8.6
7.8
8.8
Couple only
28.0
28.7
30.3
31.4
Couple with dependants
48.4
46.6
44.8
44.4
Couple with non-dependants
11.1
10.0
10.9
9.5
Related adults
5.9
6.0
6.2
5.9
'000
'000
'000
'000
Total families
3,408.9
3,699.3
4111.4
4,272.8

(a) Excludes caravan park dwellers.

Source: Census of Population and Housing



CLASSIFICATION OF FAMILY TYPE, 1991



Source: Census of Population and Housing



Couple families

Of the 3.7 million couple families in 1991, 44% had dependant children only, 7% had both dependant and non-dependant children, 11% had non-dependant children only and the remaining 37% had no children (at home). The family reference person was older in couple only families than in other couple families. In 55% of couple only families, the family reference person was over 55 years of age, compared to 5% of couples with dependant children and 52% of couples with non-dependant children only.

De facto couples

The proportion of couples in de facto relationships remains low but is increasing. The 1982 Families Survey found that 5% of couples were de facto. In the 1992 Survey of Families in Australia this figure had risen to 8%. Partners in de facto relationships are likely to be younger than partners in registered marriages. In 1992, 69% of people in de facto couples were aged 15-34 years compared to 38% in registered married couples. De facto couples were also less likely to have dependant children than registered married couples. In 1992, 51% of registered married couples had dependant children compared to 36% of de facto couples.

Reflecting their younger age profile, a high proportion of people living in de facto relationships had never been married. In 1992, 65% of people in de facto relationships had never been married and 26% had been divorced.


The incidence of de facto relationships as a form of trial marriage is also increasing. In 1975, 16% of all couples who married had lived together before marriage. Of couples who married in 1992, 56% had cohabited before their marriage.


One parent families

One parent families in the 1991 Census represented 13% of all families identified. 58% of one parent families contained dependant children only, 32% contained non-dependant children only and the remaining 10% had both dependant and non-dependant children present.

The number (and proportion) of one parent families with dependant children has been rising over the past 15 years. In 1991 there were 377,500 one parent families with dependants in Australia, (322,500 with dependants only and 55,000 with dependants and non-dependants) making up 9% of all families, an increase from 6% in 1976. For the first time, the 1991 Census identified as one parent families those which consisted of a parent and non-dependant child(ren) only. There were 175,000 such families, 4% of all families. The majority (87%) of lone parents were women.


There are many reasons for the increase in one parent families including the introduction of the
Family Law Act 1975 which enabled no-fault divorce to be granted on the grounds of mutual consent. Other reasons include greater financial security for women through increased opportunity for labour force participation, particularly through increases in part-time and casual employment, the introduction of the sole parent's pension, and a change in society's attitudes towards the family.
MARRIAGES PRECEDED BY COHABITATION


Source: Survey of Families in Australia
Blended families

In this review a blended family is defined as a couple family with two or more children of whom at least one is the natural child of both parents and at least one is the step child of at least one parent. A child is defined as aged 0-14 years or aged 15-24 years and a full-time student.

A natural child is the biological or adopted child of a couple or lone parent. A step child is the natural child of one, but not both, married or de facto partners, or the natural child of a former partner. An other child is a child without natural, adopted or step parents of their own living in the same household. The child may or may not be related to the parent(s).



Blended families

The chance of living with both parents decreases as a child gets older. As couples separate and move into new relationships, the likelihood of a child living in a blended family increases. In 1991, 25% of families with dependant children included children who were not living with both natural parents, compared to 20% in 1986. These figures include one parent families (16% in 1991 and 14% in 1986). Overall, 3% of families with dependant children in 1991 were blended families, 4% were step families, and 4% contained other children.

Of couples with dependant children, registered married couples were considerably more likely than de facto couples to have only natural children. However, between 1986 and 1991 there was an increase in the proportion of de facto couples with natural children only, from 51% to 56%. At the same time the proportion of ex-nuptial births with paternity acknowledged rose from 71% to 80% (see
Family - National summary tables). This indicates an increase in the proportion of de facto couples who are choosing to start a family. People may also choose to live in de facto relationships after separation or divorce. This is reflected in the 29% of de facto couples with step children only, and the further 11% with both step children and natural children in 1991.
NATURAL AND STEP CHILDREN IN FAMILIES(a)

1986
1991


Two parent
Two parent


One parent
Married
De facto
All families
One parent
Married
De facto
All families
Mix of children
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%

Natural children only
95.1
94.1
51.3
92.6
89.7
91.4
56.0
89.2
Step children only
1.3
2.8
36.2
3.9
0.2
3.1
28.9
4.0
Natural & step children only
0.3
2.1
10.8
2.2
0.1
3.0
10.7
3.0
Other(b)
3.3
1.0
1.8
1.3
10.0
2.5
4.3
3.8
Total
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
Total
279.5
1,688.8
76.2
2,044.4
359.0
1,745.9
121.0
2,225.9


(a) Comprises only primary families with dependant children.
(b) Comprises other children, including foster children, and combinations of natural, step and other children.

Source: Census of Population and Housing




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