International Day of Families: 5 interesting facts

International Day of Families celebrates the importance of families and their vital contribution to economic growth and development.

The theme this year is ‘Men in Charge? Gender Equality and Children’s Rights in Contemporary Families’ so we’ve collected a range of statistics to build a picture of families today.

1. Cohabiting couple families were the fastest growing family type since 1996

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There were 18.6 million families in the UK in 2014. In 2014, 83.8% of families in the UK were couple families (either married/civil-partnerships or cohabiting couples), down 1.4% since 1996.  All family types have increased in number since 1996 except for married couple families which have fluctuated over the 18 year period.  The number of married couple families with dependent children has fallen between 1996 and 2014.1,2,3  The fastest growing family type over the period was the cohabiting couple family (including both with and without dependent children).

The percentage of lone parent families increased from 14.8% in 1996 to 16.2% in 2014.  In 2014, women accounted for 91.4% of lone parents with dependent children and men the remaining 8.6%.  These percentages have changed little over the 18 year period.  Women are more likely to take the main caring responsibilities for any children when relationships break down, and therefore become lone parents.

2. Number of working families peaked in 2014 at 87.7%, the highest since 1996

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The percentage of working families increased throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s. However, the percentage fell after the economic downturn. Between 2009 and 2011 the percentage remained fairly flat, but then grew at a faster rate between 2011 and 2014.

3. Largest increase in the percentage of working families since 1996 has been in lone parent families

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The percentage of working lone parent families with dependent children rose from 47.1% in 1996 to 65.7% in 2014. This is the largest increase of any family type and helps to explain the increase in the percentage of working families in general.

The increase in the percentage of working lone parent families may be attributed to a combination of policy initiatives, changes in the characteristics of lone parents over time and general improvements in employment rates in the UK.

4. Fathers are over 6 times more likely to be working than mothers, in families with one working parent

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In 2014, over two thirds of couples with dependent children were families with both parents in work. (68.3%)1,4,5 Couples containing one working parent accounted for 27.1% of couples with dependent children.  Over 4 in 5 of these couples were families where only the male partner was in employment.

Fewer than 5% of couples with dependent children were families where neither parent was employed.  By comparison, the percentage of lone parents6 that were not in employment was over seven times as high (36.6%). This disparity can be partly explained by the advantages couples gain from having two carers, meaning that the compromise between earning family income and looking after children is more easily achieved.

5. Children with relatively high life satisfaction are 2.5 times more likely to talk to parents

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In The Good Childhood Report 2013, The Children’s Society highlighted the importance of family relationships to children’s subjective well-being.  It also found that a measure of family harmony was substantially more indicative of children’s well-being than family structure.

In 2011-12, children who reported being relatively satisfied with life overall were around 2.5 times more likely to talk to both of their parents about things that matter more than once a week than children who reported being relatively unsatisfied with life overall.

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