In 2004 there were 7.4 million families with 13.1 million dependent children living in them in the UK. Most of these children (66 per cent) lived in a married couple family.
One in four dependent children lived in a lone-parent family in 2004. This was an increase from 1 in 14 in 1972.
The average number of children in a family declined from 2.0 in 1971 to 1.8 in 2004. Married couple families were generally larger than other family types, with an average 1.8 children in 2004, compared with 1.7 in cohabiting couple and lone-mother families.
Number of dependent children in a family: by family type, 2004, UK
In 2004 nearly two thirds (64 per cent) of lone-father families had only one child living with them, the largest proportion of any family type. The proportion of married couple families with one child was the smallest at 37 per cent. Married couples were more likely than other family types to have three or more children.
Children in families headed by lone-fathers tended to be older than children in other types of families. In 2001 the youngest child in nearly half of lone-father families was aged over 11. This compared with around a quarter of married couple and lone-mother families, and a seventh of cohabiting couple families. This pattern reflects cohabiting couple families and lone-mothers being generally younger than married couple families and lone-fathers.
Some children live in different family types during their childhood, this is a result of changes in relationship and childbearing patterns, such as the rise in births outside marriage and the growth in divorce and cohabitation.
Children can be affected by the breakdown of marriage and cohabiting unions and/or the creation of new partnerships. In 2003, 153,500 children under 16 were affected by their parents divorcing in England and Wales, just over one in five were under five years old.
One in four women who gave birth outside marriage in 1988 went on to marry in the subsequent eight years, most of them married the child’s father.
Some children do not live in families at all. In 2001, 139,000 children were living in other households in the UK, this includes living with adults or other relatives who are not their parents. An additional 52,000 children under 16 lived in communal establishments such as a children’s home.
Sources: Census, 2001, Office for National Statistics; General Register Office for Scotland; Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency Labour Force Survey, spring 2004, Office for National Statistics General Household Survey, 1971 and 1972, Office for National Statistics Children of divorced couples: Office for National Statistics
Notes: Household: a person living alone, or a group of people living at the same address who have the address as their only or main residence and either share one main meal a day or share the living accommodation (or both).
Family: a married/cohabiting couple with or without child(ren), or a lone-parent with child(ren).
Dependent children: aged under 16, or aged 16-18 in full-time education and never married.
All data refer to dependent children except for children in communal establishments. In the Census, children not in a household are not classified as either dependent or non-dependent.