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4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 2002  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 09/05/2002   
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Contents >> Family >> Living Arrangements: Transitions in living arrangements

Living Arrangements: Transitions in living arrangements

In 1999, one in five Australians had experienced one or more changes in their living arrangements in the previous year.

A stable and supportive home life is generally acknowledged to be an important contributor to the social and emotional wellbeing of both children and adults. Much of Australia's family and social policy is concerned with measures aimed at keeping families together and with providing special assistance to supporting parents and children after families break down. But family and household units are by nature dynamic, and all of the transitions that occur throughout the life cycle involve personal, social and economic adjustments and have an important impact on wellbeing.


Transitions and temporary residents
This article uses statistics on transitions in living arrangements and characteristics of temporary residents collected in the ABS 1999 Australian Housing Survey. The survey identified households which had changed composition in the previous 12 months. Within these households, usual residents aged 15 years and over were interviewed to ascertain the type(s) of transitions in living arrangement(s) they had experienced during the previous 12 months. The survey also identified households which had one or more regular temporary residents and collected information about the numbers and characteristics of temporary residents, including those aged under 15 years, in each household.

Usual residents are people who have lived, or intend to live, with the household for a total of six months or more and regard it as their own (or main) household.

Households which changed composition are households which had gained and/or lost one or more usual residents in the previous 12 months. This includes new households which formed during the previous 12 months but excludes households which may have experienced change during the period but had the same usual residents at the time of the survey as 12 months previously (e.g. households where a couple had separated and reunited, or a child had moved out of the parental home and returned, within the previous 12 months).

Transitions in living arrangements are experiences of persons (aged 15 years and over) which were associated with a change or changes in their household situation (e.g. moved out of parents' home, moved into parents' home, left a partner, living with a new partner, one or more children born/adopted, child(ren) left home, child(ren) returned to household, parent(s) moved into household, other relative moved into household). A single event such as a 20 year old son returning to live with both parents and his 17 year old sister and 14 year old brother was recorded as four individual experiences, one for each household member aged 15 years and over. The 20 year old experienced a move into his parents' home, the mother and father each experienced a child returning to the household, and the 17 year old experienced an 'other relative' moving into the household.

Temporary residents are people (of all ages) who are not usual residents of the household, but who stay, or are expected to stay, with the household for at least 20 nights (not necessarily consecutive) over a 12 month period. The data on the characteristics of temporary residents presented in this article are limited to a maximum of four temporary residents per household and cover 90% of all temporary residents identified in the survey.


In 1999, 1.4 million Australian households had gained or lost one or more usual residents in the previous year. Group households were the most likely to have changed composition in the previous year (52%) followed by one-parent families (about 29% overall). Lone-person and couple only households were the least likely to have changed in the previous year (14% and 12% respectively).

In 1999, almost 3 million Australians aged 15 years and over had experienced one or more changes in their living arrangements in the previous year. These changes were most common among younger people. The proportion of women whose living arrangements had changed in the previous year peaked at 43% in the 20-24 years age group, while for men the peak (37%) occurred a little later, in the 25-29 years age group. This was largely because women leave their parents' home earlier and also enter their first marriage or defacto partnership at a younger age than men. Following these peaks, the proportions of people with changed living arrangements declined rapidly with age, and were about the same for both men and women.

HOUSEHOLDS WHICH CHANGED COMPOSITION IN THE PREVIOUS YEAR - 1999

Number which changed
Proportion of each group which changed
Current household composition
‘000
%

Selected one family households(a)
    Couple only
212.1
12.1
    Couple with children
      Aged 0-14 years only
246.5
19.1
      Aged 0-14 and 15-24 years
47.3
13.7
      Aged 15-24 years only
100.7
19.7
    One parent with children
      Aged 0-14 years only
84.4
29.3
      Aged 0-14 and 15-24 years
14.3
26.9
      Aged 15-24 years only
38.0
30.6
Other family household
230.3
28.4
Non-family household
    Lone person
252.4
14.3
    Group household
145.7
51.6
Total households(b)
1,371.7
19.0
Persons in households
    Aged 0-14 years
816.8
20.9
    Aged 15 years and over
2,961.2
20.0

(a) May include both family and non-family members.
(b) Includes households not shown in the selected one family household groups.

Source: ABS 1999 Australian Housing Survey.


Young people leaving home
For young adults in Australian society, leaving home is generally seen as an important step in the transition from a largely dependent childhood to adult independence, and is one of the most common types of change experienced by young people. In 1999, almost one in four 15-29 year olds whose living arrangements had changed in the previous year had moved out of their parents' home, though not necessarily for the first or last time. About one in ten 15-29 year olds with changed living arrangements had moved back in with their parents in the previous year. Some young people may return to live with their parents several times before they firmly establish themselves elsewhere.

A single event, such as a young person leaving or returning to the family home, may also affect the living arrangements of many others. For example, by far the most common type of change among people aged 45-64 years was having one or more children leave home. The next most common type of change they experienced was having one or more children move back in. As well as affecting their parents' living arrangements, young people leaving or returning to the family home also affect the other members of the household, mainly their brothers and sisters still living at home.

When young people leave home they generally move into households with other young people such as friends, acquaintances or relatives (e.g. brothers, sisters, cousins) who are also no longer living with their parents. These other young people are also affected, both when new members move in, and when they move out. In 1999, one in four 15-24 year olds whose living arrangements had changed in the previous year, had a relative other than a parent, child or partner (most commonly a brother or sister) or an unrelated person move out of the household. Around one in five had such a relative or unrelated person move into the household.

PROPORTION OF AGE GROUP WHOSE LIVING ARRANGEMENTS CHANGED IN THE PREVIOUS YEAR - 1999

Source: ABS 1999 Australian Housing Survey.


Family formation and breakdown
An important transition often associated with leaving the parental home is the formation of a new family unit. Establishing a household with either their first or a new life partner was most common in the 20-29 years age group. Of all 20-29 year olds whose living arrangements had changed in the previous year, 17% had begun living with their first or a new partner. The proportion declined with age to 15% of 30-34 year olds and 10% of 35-44 year olds whose living arrangements had changed in the previous year.

Conversely, the proportion of people who had either left their partner, or whose partner had left them, increased over these age groups. Around 10% of 20-29 year olds and 14% of 30-44 year olds whose living arrangements had changed in the previous year had separated from their partner.

The birth or adoption of a child was the most common change experienced by people in their late twenties and early thirties, and the second most common change among those in their late thirties and early forties. Among those with changed living arrangements, 40% of 30-34 year olds and 22% of both 25-29 and 35-44 year olds experienced the birth or adoption of a child in the previous year.

Gaining or losing care of children is relatively rare overall and is generally associated with the separation of couples with children. Reflecting their relatively high rates of partnership breakdown, 30-44 year olds were the most likely to have either gained or lost primary care of their children. Of all 30-44 year olds whose living arrangements had changed in the previous year, around 7% had either gained or lost primary care of one or more children.

PEOPLE WHOSE LIVING ARRANGEMENTS CHANGED IN THE PREVIOUS YEAR: TYPE(S) OF CHANGE EXPERIENCED - 1999

Age group (years)

Type(s) of change experienced
15-19
20-24
25-29
30-34
35-44
45-54
55-64
65 and over
Total 15 and over

%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
Child(ren) born or adopted
*2.1
10.6
22.1
40.3
21.5
*2.0
*1.5
**1.1
14.7
Child(ren) left home
**0.4
*1.4
*0.8
*2.5
26.6
57.4
45.9
21.7
17.9
Child(ren) returned to household
**0.2
*1.9
*1.0
*1.7
12.4
24.7
30.2
10.5
9.0
Gained or lost custody/care of child(ren)
**0.3
*0.9
2.4
5.9
8.0
2.7
**1.0
*3.0
3.2
Started living with first or new partner
6.5
17.3
17.1
14.7
9.7
4.9
*1.2
**0.8
10.9
Left partner or partner moved out
*2.9
9.9
10.6
14.4
13.7
6.0
5.8
*4.5
9.3
Widowed or partner died
**-
**0.3
**-
**0.1
**0.4
*1.4
*3.7
29.0
1.7
Moved out of parents' home
22.3
27.6
18.9
8.8
3.0
**0.4
**-
**-
12.1
Moved into parents' home
9.7
13.6
7.9
5.8
*1.9
**0.6
**-
**-
5.9
Parent(s) moved out or in
5.5
4.7
2.9
*2.4
4.3
*3.3
*3.7
**0.8
3.7
Other relative or unrelated person moved out
26.4
21.8
15.5
11.1
12.4
11.2
14.9
11.9
15.9
Other relative or unrelated person moved in
19.2
18.6
16.6
12.8
11.2
13.7
16.4
11.5
15.2
Moved in with other relative or unrelated person
14.3
25.0
17.0
6.4
5.8
*1.6
*3.4
11.1
11.5
Moved out from other relative or unrelated person
8.8
20.0
16.3
10.6
4.9
3.0
*2.9
*4.5
10.1
Total whose living arrangements changed(a)
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0

‘000
‘000
‘000
‘000
‘000
‘000
‘000
‘000
‘000
Total whose living arrangements changed(a)
323.5
515.8
507.6
355.6
481.7
457.5
204.2
115.3
2,961.2

(a) People may have experienced more than one type of change in their living arrangements so components may not add to totals.

Source: ABS 1999 Australian Housing Survey.


Death of a life partner
Relatively rare in the younger age groups, the death of a life partner was the most common change experienced by people aged 65 years and over. Of all people aged 65 years and over whose living arrangements had changed in the previous year, 29% had experienced the death of their partner.

Temporary residents
In addition to the longer-term transitions in living arrangements discussed above, many households also experience short-term variations in living arrangements. These include periods when students living away from home return during term breaks or when other non-resident family members or friends come to stay.

In 1999, 17% of Australian households had one or more regular temporary residents who spent at least 20 nights per year in the household. Of the 1.9 million temporary residents identified, sons and daughters of the household head (or their spouse) made up the largest proportion (40%), followed by parents or grandparents (13%), boyfriend, girlfriend, partner or spouse (13%), friends (10%) and grandchildren (9%). However, there was considerable variation across life-cycle groups.

RELATIONSHIP OF TEMPORARY RESIDENTS TO THE HOUSEHOLD HEAD OR SPOUSE/PARTNER - 1999

Source: ABS 1999 Australian Housing Survey.


For example, boyfriends, girlfriends, partners or spouses of the household head were the most common type of temporary residents in younger non-couple households, accounting for 35% of all temporary residents in group households, 32% in young lone-person households (reference person aged under 35 years) and 29% in one-parent households with dependent children. Boyfriends, girlfriends, partners or spouses were the third most common type of temporary resident in older lone person households (reference person aged 55 years or over).

Parents or grandparents of the household head (or their spouse) were the most common type of temporary residents in young couple only households, comprising 32% of all temporary residents in these households. Reflecting the generally close links between grandparents and grandchildren, especially while the children are young, parents or grandparents of the household head also made up a considerable proportion of temporary residents in households with young children. They accounted for 40% of all temporary residents in couple households in which the eldest child was aged under 5 years and 34% in couple households in which the eldest child was aged 5-14 years. At the same time, grandchildren made up the second largest proportion of temporary residents in older couple only and lone person households - 33% and 27% respectively.

THREE MOST COMMON TYPES OF TEMPORARY RESIDENTS BY LIFE-CYCLE STAGE OF HOUSEHOLD - 1999

Relationship of temporary residents to the household head or their spouse/partner

Selected life-cycle groups
%
%
%

Group householdBoyfriend/girlfriend/ partner/spouse
35.0
Friend
24.3
Son/daughter(a)
14.4
Lone person, aged under 35 yearsBoyfriend/girlfriend/ partner/spouse
31.7
Son/daughter(a)
20.5
Parent/grandparent
15.3
Couple only, reference person aged under 35 yearsParent/grandparent
31.7
Son/daughter(a)
27.2
Brother/sister
*15.6
Couple, eldest child aged under 5 yearsParent/grandparent
40.3
Son/daughter(a)
28.0
Brother/sister
*10.7
Couple, eldest child aged 5-14 yearsSon/daughter(a)
35.6
Parent/grandparent
33.7
Friend
*5.4
Couple, eldest child aged 15 years or overSon/daughter(a)
40.7
Parent/grandparent
13.2
Friend
12.3
One parent with dependent childrenBoyfriend/girlfriend/ partner/spouse
29.1
Son/daughter(a)
23.3
Parent/grandparent
12.7
Couple only, reference person aged 55 years or overSon/daughter(a)
49.3
Grandson/grandaughter
33.0
Parent/grandparent
*5.1
Lone person, reference person aged 55 years or overSon/daughter(a)
43.0
Grandson/grandaughter
26.6
Boyfriend/girlfriend/ partner/spouse
7.3

(a) Includes stepsons and stepdaughters.

Source: ABS 1999 Australian Housing Survey.


Sons and daughters who are temporary residents
Overall, the largest group of temporary residents were sons and daughters. They made up the largest proportion of temporary residents in older couple only and lone person households - 49% and 43% respectively. They were also the largest group of temporary residents in couple households in which the eldest child was aged 15 years or over (41%) and in couple households in which the eldest child was aged 5-14 years (36%). Sons and daughters also made up a considerable proportion of the temporary residents in younger households, including group households where they accounted for 14% of all temporary residents.

The majority of temporary resident sons and daughters were young. Almost a third were under 15 years of age, and over a third were aged 15-24 years. Only 12% were aged 35 years and over.

Children (of separated or divorced parents) visiting their non-resident parent made up over a third (36%) of all sons and daughters who were temporary residents. The proportion was much higher in younger households. Over 90% of temporary resident sons and daughters in young lone person and couple only households, and in couple households in which the eldest child was aged under 5 years, were visiting their non-resident parent. Four out of five children (of separated or divorced parents) visiting their non-resident parent were under 15 years of age.

Students living away from home during educational terms, and returning for holidays or weekends, made up 12% of all sons and daughters who were temporary residents. The vast majority were aged 15-24 years and were most highly represented in couple and lone-parent households in which the eldest resident child was over 15 years of age.

A further 14% of temporary resident sons and daughters were living away from their parents' home for employment reasons. This group tended to be older than the students (with 44% aged 25 years and over) and was most highly represented in older couple only households and couple households in which the eldest resident child was aged 15 years or over.

Of the remaining 40% of temporary resident sons and daughters, most were adults living independently elsewhere. This was the oldest group with two-thirds aged 25 years and over.

SONS AND DAUGHTERS WHO ARE TEMPORARY RESIDENTS - 1999

Reason(s) not a usual resident
%

Usually lived with other parent(a)
35.5
    Aged under 15 years
28.5
    Aged 15-24 years
7.0
Student living away from home
11.7
    Aged 15-24 years
10.6
Employment reasons
13.9
    Aged 15-24 years
7.8
    Aged 25-34 years
4.2
    Aged 35 years and over
1.8
Other reasons(b)
40.3
    Aged under 15 years
2.0
    Aged 15-24 years
11.1
    Aged 25-34 years
16.6
    Aged 35 years and over
10.5
Total
100.0
    Aged under 15 years
30.9
    Aged 15-24 years
35.7
    Aged 25-34 years
21.2
    Aged 35 years and over
12.1

(a) Refers to children whose parents were separated or divorced.
(b) Mainly adults living independently elsewhere.

Source: ABS 1999 Australian Housing Survey.


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