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FEATURE ARTICLE: ONE PARENT FAMILIES WITH DEPENDENT CHILDREN IN SOUTH AUSTRALIA
The majority of lone parents with dependent children had experienced a marriage breakdown, with 54.6% of lone parents recording in 2006 that they were divorced or separated. Another 37.3% had never married.
South Australia has seen an increase in the proportion of divorces involving children under 18 years, from 47.5% of all granted divorces in 1994 to 53.1% in 2006 (ABS 1994, 2006). There has also been an increase in the proportion of ex-nuptial births, from 24.3% of births in 1991 to 36.6% in 2006 (ABS 1993, 2007). These factors have contributed to a change in family structures. As a consequence, a greater number of dependent children are living in one parent households, with an increase from 61,007 children in 1996 to 70,277 in 2006. This represented 17.8% of all dependent children in 1996 and 21.1% in 2006.
AGE AND SEX
In 2006, the lone parent in most (84.4%) of the one parent families with dependent children was female, although the proportion of male lone parents has increased over the past ten years from 13.5% in 1996 to 15.6% in 2006.
In 2006, lone parents with dependent children were most likely (40.2%) to be aged 35-44 years, with 7.7% aged 15-24 years. There were differences in the ages of the male and female lone parent, with lone fathers tending to have an older age profile than lone mothers.
LABOUR FORCE PARTICIPATION
At the 2006 Census, 60.4% of female lone parents with dependent children were in the labour force, increasing over the past ten years from 51.3% in 1996. Factors that may have influenced this change include increasing availability of part-time work for women, more available childcare places and government financial assistance in the form of child care rebates.
Labour force participation varies greatly between lone mothers and lone fathers with dependent children. Lone fathers are more than twice as likely as lone mothers to work full-time.
Lone parents aged under 35 years are considerably less likely than older lone parents to be in the labour force. Less than half (46.1%) of lone parents in the younger age group are in the labour force, compared with 69.6% of lone parents aged 35 years or older.
Among one parent families with dependent children, 66.8% had a family income of less than $800 per week, while only 6.1% had an income of $1,400 or more per week. In contrast, 42.2% of couple families with dependent children had a weekly income of $1,400 or more.
Lone father families with dependent children tend to have higher incomes than their lone mother counterparts, with 13.0% of male-headed lone parent families in the $1,400 or more category and 52.6% having a weekly income under $800. A majority (83.5%) of families headed by lone parents aged under 35 had a family income under $800 per week.
One parent families with dependent children were more likely to reside in rental accommodation with 52.4% renting compared to 16.7% of couple families with dependent children. Among one parent families with dependent children who rented their dwelling, 27.1% rented from the State housing authority, compared with 13.9% of couple families with dependent children.
Other housing arrangements included:
One parent families with a parent aged under 35 were considerably less likely to own or be purchasing their dwelling (27.4%) than those with an older parent (52.8%).
The following table shows the ten Statistical Local Areas (SLAs) with the highest proportion of one parent families with dependent children. Only two of the ten SLAs with the highest proportion of this family type were outside of the Adelaide Statistical Division. See the Australian Standard Geographical Classification 2006 (cat. no. 1216.0) for maps of the Adelaide Statistical Division and SLAs in South Australia.
The distribution of this type of family within the Adelaide Statistical Division is shown in the following map. Areas with high proportions of one parent families with dependent children were in three clusters; in the outer northern suburbs, the north-western suburbs and the outer southern suburbs. These are generally lower socio-economic areas according to the Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (cat. no. 2033.0.55.001).
The map below shows the distribution of lone parents who were in the labour force, as a proportion of all lone parents with dependent children. The lone parents most likely to be in the labour force are those in the eastern suburbs of Adelaide, with the Adelaide Hills area having the highest proportion. The SLAs with the highest proportion of one parent families generally have a low proportion of lone parents in the labour force.
Of the 407,485 families in South Australia at the 2006 Census, 45,029 were one parent families with dependent children. Since 1991, one parent families with dependent children have increased as a proportion of all families, from 8.9% in 1991 to 11.1% in 2006. Most lone parents of dependent children are female, and the majority of both male and female lone parents are aged 35 years or older.
Most lone parents with dependent children were in the labour force in 2006. Lone fathers were more likely than lone mothers to be in the labour force, and were considerably more likely to work full-time. This may be one reason why families with a lone father tended to have higher family incomes than those with a lone mother.
One parent families with dependent children were much more likely than couple families with dependent children to reside in rental accommodation. Among lone parent families, those with an older parent were more likely to own or be purchasing their home.
According to the Census Dictionary 2006 (cat no. 2901.0) a family is defined as two or more people, 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 data include only those families where at least one usually resident family member was present in the household on Census Night.
Dependent children are people under 15 years of age, or people aged 15-24 years in a family who are full-time students attending a secondary or tertiary institution. Dependent children include adopted children, step children and foster children. This analysis excludes one parent families with non-dependent children.
ABS 1993 Births, Australia, (cat no. 3301.0)
ABS 1994 Marriages and Divorces, Australia, (cat. no. 3310.0)
ABS 2006 Divorces, Australia, (cat no. 3307.0.55.001)
ABS 2007 Births, Australia, (cat no. 3301.0)
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