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4442.0 - Family Characteristics, Australia, 2009-10  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 27/05/2011   
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SUMMARY OF FINDINGS


INTRODUCTION

This publication presents results from the 2009-10 Family Characteristics Survey (FCS) and compares them to results from the 1997, 2003 and 2006-07 Surveys. It provides information about changing patterns of family and household composition in contemporary Australia. Information is also presented regarding children's contact with their grandparents, and about both child support arrangements for children who have a parent living elsewhere and about the contact they have with that parent.

Information is presented for the Australian population living in private dwellings, excluding very remote parts of Australia.


HOUSEHOLDS

In 2009-10 there were 8.4 million households in Australia, of which 74% (or 6.2 million households) contained one or more families. In these statistics, families are defined as:

  • two or more persons, one of whom is at least 15 years of age, who are related by blood, marriage (registered or de facto), adoption, step or fostering; and
  • who are usually resident in the same household.

Family households contained 19.2 million people, or 88% of the Australian population living in private dwellings (excluding very remote parts of Australia). The vast majority of families resided in households that contained only one family (96% of all family households in 2009-10) (table 1).

Lone person households comprised 23% of Australian households in 2009-10, with 2 million people, or 9% of the Australian population (in private dwellings) living alone. There were more women than men living alone. The proportion of lone households has not changed significantly over the last 13 years, and lone women households still outnumber lone male households. However, while the number of lone women households has risen with each survey cycle, the number of lone men households fell in 2009-10 to below the level recorded in the 2003 survey results (table 1).

The proportion of people living in group households has declined in the last 13 years since 1997, with group households comprising 3% of the total population living in private dwellings in Australia in 2009-10, down from 5% in 1997 (table 1).


FAMILIES

Families may be comprised of:
  • couples with or without resident children of any age;
  • lone parents with resident children of any age; or
  • other families of related adults, such as brothers or sisters living together, where no couple or parent-child relationship exists.

Of the 6.3 million families in Australia in 2009-10, 84% (5.4 million) were couple families, 14% (879,000) were one parent families and 2% (98,000) were other families (table 1).

Couple families with resident children of any age (2.8 million families) outnumbered those families without resident children of any age (2.5 million families). The proportion of all families that were couple families with children living in the household has decreased in each survey cycle since 1997 (48% of total families in 1997, 46% in 2003, 45% in 2006-07 and 44% in 2009-10). In contrast, the proportion of couple families without resident children of any age increased with each survey cycle (35% of total families in 1997, 38% in 2003, and 40% in 2006-07 and 2009-10).

FAMILY COMPOSITION
Graph: FAMILY COMPOSITION


The proportion of one parent families with children of any age was 14% in 2009-10, the same as in 2006-07, but lower than in 2003 and 1997 (15%) (table 1).

Diagram: FAMILIES


Families with resident children of any age

Families with resident children of any age made up 58% (3.7 million) of all families in 2009-10. Of all families with children of any age, 77% had dependent children (aged less than 15 years or full-time dependent students aged 15 to 24 years), while 23% had non-dependent children only. In 2009-10, there were 2.7 million families with at least one child aged 0 to 17 years (42% of all families) (table 1).

One parent families where the youngest resident child was aged 0 to 4 accounted for 17% of all one parent families in 2009-10, down from 23% in 1997 (table 4).


EMPLOYMENT STATUS OF PARENTS

Both parents were employed in 63% of the 2.3 million couple families with resident dependent children. Of couple families with dependent children, the proportion where both parents were employed generally increased with the age of the youngest dependent child, from 49% of families where the youngest child was aged 0 to 4 years, to 75% of families where the youngest dependent child was a full-time student aged 15 to 24 years (table 8).

Of all couple families with resident dependent children in 2009-10, 5% had neither parent employed. In 38% of one parent families with dependent children the resident parent was not employed (table 8). There were 667,000 dependent children (12%) living in families without an employed resident parent, although in some cases other people in these households were employed. There were 568,000 dependent children (11%) living in a household where no one was employed (table 9).

FAMILIES WITH DEPENDENT CHILDREN, Whether parent(s) employed by age of youngest dependent child
Graph: FAMILIES WITH DEPENDENT CHILDREN, Whether parent(s) employed by age of youngest dependent child



EMPLOYMENT STATUS OF MOTHERS

Of families with dependent children, the percentage where mothers were employed has generally increased in each survey cycle since 1997, for both couple and lone mother families. In 2009-10 mothers were employed in 66% of couple families with dependent children and 60% of lone mother families compared to 59% and 46% respectively in 1997. This increase has been most noticeable in families with older children. For instance, in couple families where the youngest child was a dependent student aged 15- 24 years, 81% of mothers were employed in 2009-10 compared to 71% in 1997. In 2009-10, of lone mothers whose youngest child was a dependent student aged 15-24 years, 83% were employed compared to 69% in 1997.

As might be expected, the proportion of mothers who are employed increases as the age of the youngest child increases. For example, in 2009-10, in couple families with young children (aged less than 5 years), 51% of mothers were employed compared to 81% where the youngest child was a dependent student aged 15-24 years. In lone mother households the differences are even larger, with 28% of lone mothers with young children employed compared to 83% of lone mothers with older children.

Diagram: EMPLOYMENT STATUS OF MOTHERS

In couple families and lone mother families the proportion of mothers in full-time employment increases as the age of the youngest child increases. Of couple families where the youngest child was aged 0 to 4 years, 16% of mothers were employed full-time. For couple families where the youngest child was a dependent student aged 15 to 24 years, 44% of mothers were employed full-time. In lone mother families where the youngest child was aged 0 to 4 years, 10% of mothers were employed full-time, compared to 57% where the youngest child was a dependent student aged 15 to 24 years (table 8).

FAMILIES WITH DEPENDENT CHILDREN, Whether mother employed full-time or part-time
Graph: FAMILIES WITH DEPENDENT CHILDREN, Whether mother employed full-time or part-time



FAMILY STRUCTURES

Of all families in 2009-10 with resident children aged 0 to 17 years (2.7 million), 81% were couple families and 19% were one parent families (table 1). The proportion of families with children aged 0 to 17 years that were couple families has increased since 2003 (up from 78%), while the proportion of one parent families with children aged 0 to 17 years has declined since 2003 (down from 22%) (table 10).

Intact families are those in which the children are the natural or adopted children of both parents and there are no step children. In 2009-10, of families with resident children aged 0 to 17 years, 1.9 million (or 73%) were intact couple families. Step families are those formed when parents re-partner following separation or the death of their partner and there is at least one resident step child of either member of the couple, but no natural or adopted child of the couple who is resident with the family. There were 99,000 step families with resident children aged 0 to 17 years in 2009-10 (4% of all families with children aged 0 to 17 years). A blended family contains a resident step child but also a natural or adopted child of both parents. There were 91,000 blended families with resident children aged 0 to 17 years in 2009-10 (3% of all families with children aged 0 to 17 years). There has been little change in the proportions of intact, step or blended couple families since 1997 (table 10).

The majority of one parent families with resident children aged 0 to 17 years were lone mother families (85% of all one parent families with children aged 0 to 17 years in 2009-10) compared to lone father families (15%) (table 10).

Of families in which the youngest resident child was aged 0 to 4 years, most were intact couple families (79% of all families with the youngest child aged 0 to 4 years). The proportions for intact families with older resident children were lower; 70% of all families with the youngest child aged 5 to 9 years, 69% of all families with the youngest child aged 10 to 14 years, and 65% of all families with the youngest child aged 15 to 17 years (table 11).

FAMILIES WITH CHILDREN AGED 0-17 YEARS, Family structure by age of youngest child
Graph: FAMILIES WITH CHILDREN AGED 0–17 YEARS, Family structure by age of youngest child


In 2009-10, there were:
  • 16,000 grandparent families in which the grandparents were guardians or main carers of resident children aged 0 to 17 years. The number of grandparent families has decreased since 2003 when there were 23,000 grandparent families with children aged 0 to 17 years;
  • 9,000 foster families in which there was at least one resident foster child; and
  • 23,000 same-sex couple families. The majority of these couples had no children.

These grandparent, foster and same-sex couple families contribute to the total number of families in publication tables, but are not separately reported in the tables.


HOUSEHOLD AND FAMILY STRUCTURE BY GEOGRAPHY

Across Australia, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory had the highest proportion of households that were family households (both 77%), while South Australia and Tasmania both had the lowest proportion that were family households (70%).

HOUSEHOLD COMPOSITION BY STATE/TERRITORY(a)
Graph: HOUSEHOLD COMPOSITION BY STATE/TERRITORY(a)


Across the states and territories, in 2009-10 Queensland and Tasmania recorded the highest proportion of families that were couple families without children (both 43%), while Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory had the lowest proportion that were couple families without children (both 38%). These patterns may reflect the age distribution of these states and territories. Of families with children aged 0 to 17 years, the Northern Territory had the highest proportion that were one parent families (25%), while Western Australia had the lowest proportion (17%).

Family structures differ across remoteness areas of Australia (table 5). In the major cities, 38% of families were couple families without children, while in both Inner Regional Australia and Outer Regional/Remote Australia this family type accounted for 44% and 45%, respectively, of all families. The reverse pattern can be seen for couple families with children, with 46% of families in major cities being couple families with children, compared to 41% of families in both Inner Regional Australia and Outer Regional/Remote Australia.

FAMILY COMPOSITION BY REMOTENESS
Graph: FAMILY COMPOSITION BY REMOTENESS



CHILDREN'S CONTACT WITH GRANDPARENTS

In 2009-10, of children aged 0 to 17 living in couple families with a resident natural father, 75% were reported as seeing their paternal grandparents at least once per year, while 80% of children aged 0 to 17 living in couple families with a resident natural mother were reported as seeing their maternal grandparents at least once per year. Of those children in couple families who were reported as seeing their paternal/maternal grandparents, most had face to face contact at least once per week (41% with paternal grandparents and 48% with maternal grandparents). In lone mother families with a resident natural mother, 79% of children were reported as seeing their maternal grandparents at least once a year. Of children with a resident natural mother and who had face to face contact with their maternal grandparents, those in lone mother families were more likely than those in couple families to have seen them at least once a week (61% compared to 48%). Of children aged 0 to 17 in lone father families with a resident natural father, 76% saw their paternal grandparents at least once a year (table 12).

Of children aged 0 to 17 living in couple families with a resident natural father, 16% rarely (less than once a year or never) saw their paternal grandparents, but more than half of those children (58%) had contact with their paternal grandparents via indirect means such as telephone, email and letter. Similarly, 14% of children aged 0 to 17 living in couple families with a resident natural mother rarely (less than once a year or never) saw their maternal grandparents, but more than half of those children (62%) had contact with their maternal grandparents via indirect means such as telephone, email and letter. Of children aged 0 to 17 living in lone mother families with a resident natural mother, 13% rarely saw their maternal grandparents, with 35% of those having indirect contact with their maternal grandparents.


CHILDREN WITH PARENTS LIVING ELSEWHERE

Of the 5.0 million children aged 0 to 17 years in 2009-10, just over 1 million (21%) had a natural parent living elsewhere, compared to 21% in 2006-07, 23% in 2003 and 21% in 1997 (table 1). Of these children in 2009-10, 73% lived in one parent families, 14% in step families and 11% in blended families. Children were more likely to live with their mother than their father after parents separated. The vast majority of natural parents living elsewhere were fathers (81% of these children had a father living elsewhere) (table 13).


Contact arrangements

Of the children aged 0 to 17 years with a natural parent living elsewhere in 2009-10, 48% (508,000) saw this parent at least once per fortnight, while 24% rarely saw their natural parent living elsewhere (less than once per year or never). The pattern of regular contact that children have with their natural parent living elsewhere has been relatively stable over time, with approximately half having contact at least once per fortnight (44% in 1997, 51% in 2003, 43% in 2006-07 and 48% in 2009-10). The proportion of children who rarely had contact with their natural parent living elsewhere (less than once per year or never) has declined over time (30% in 1997, 26% in 2003, 28% in 2006-07 and 24% in 2009-10).

In 2009-10, of children with a natural parent living elsewhere, 3% spent half their nights or more per year staying with that other parent, while 19% of children spent less than 10% of their nights per year (for example, less than 3 nights per month) staying overnight with the parent living elsewhere. Fifteen percent of children spent between 10% and 20% of their nights (for example, between 3 and 6 nights per month) with the natural parent living elsewhere. Almost half (45%) of children with a natural parent living elsewhere never stayed overnight with that parent (table 14).

In 2009-10, 57% of children aged 0 to 4 years saw their natural parent living elsewhere at least once a fortnight, compared with 54% of children aged 5 to 9 years, 45% of children aged 10 to 14 years and 38% of children aged 15 to 17 years. For overnight stays, 52% of all children aged 5 to 9 years and 53% of all children aged 10 to 14 years with a natural parent living elsewhere stayed overnight with that parent. The proportions were lower both for younger children aged 0 to 4 years (36%), and for older children 15 to 17 years (42%) (table 15).

CHILDREN SEEING NATURAL PARENT LIVING ELSEWHERE, Frequency of visits by age of child
Graph: CHILDREN SEEING NATURAL PARENT LIVING ELSEWHERE, Frequency of visits by age of child



Child support arrangements

Child support arrangement status was reported for approximately 66% of the 1.1 million children in Australia who had a natural parent living elsewhere in 2009-10. Of the 697,000 children for whom child support status was reported, 76% were under a Child Support Agency (CSA) arrangement, 14% were under another form of arrangement and 10% were not covered by any type of arrangement.


PERSONS WHO HAVE CHILDREN LIVING ELSEWHERE

In 2009-10, there were 441,000 people who had children aged 0 to 17 years living elsewhere with the other natural parent of their children. Most people with children living elsewhere were males (83%). More than half (53%) of the males who had children living elsewhere were members of a couple family, while 31% of them lived alone. Other males with children living elsewhere lived in group households (4%) or in lone parent households (10%). Of females with children living elsewhere, 47% were members of a couple family household, 29% were lone parents and 22% lived alone (table 17).

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