Australian Families

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The statistics show beyond doubt that the nuclear family is still by far the most prominent family form in Australia. But since the first family statistics were collected in 1966, other family forms and non- family living have been on the increase. The major changes have been a doubling of the proportion of female headed, one-parent families, an increase from around 10 per cent to almost 20 per cent in the proportion of households of a person living alone, and the increased of couples of all ages living with no children in the household. Also, about one in eight of the two-parent families with children, described in this paper as , are in the sense that one or both of the parents has been married before. These are changes since 1966. Of course, some of these family forms (such as female-headed, one-parent families and families resulting from remarriages) are not new because they were not under the high mortality patterns of the 19th century. What is new about them is that the absent partner is not gone forever but may live in the next suburb. The very high of couples with no children present (almost 25 per cent of all households in 1982) has never been experienced to anything like the same extent in Australian history.
Families are formed, altered, and dissolved through individual decisions about births, marriages, and divorces, from the parental home, and co-residence of members of the extended family, while deaths have an impact on family type. Recent changes in family types can therefore be traced through the changes in these determining factors. There have also always been families in Australia based on de facto rather than legal . De facto relationships involving children are still relatively uncommon (in 1982, about 3 per cent of all families with children in the household), but de facto relationships or living-together have become very prominent among young couples (and probably also among persons who have divorced). This paper will examine changes in the factors that determine family structure and then discuss further the changing nature of Australian .

(McDonald, Peter (1984) Can the Family Survive? Discussion paper no.11, Australian Institute of Family Studies )