3. Number of families with children goes on falling

At the end of 2015, there were 571,000 families with underage children in Finland. A family with underage children has at least one child under the age of 18 living at home. Families with underage children make up 39 per cent of all families. The percentage has been falling at a steady rate for the past few years. In all, 40 per cent of the population live in families with underage children, older siblings included.

The number of families with underage children fell by 2,100 from the previous year. The drop was around 600 lower than in the year before. The number of families with children under the age of seven has increased by 300 families from the year before.

Table 5. Families with underage children by type in 1950–2015

Year    Total       Married
couple
with
children
Cohabiting
couple
with
children
Mother
and
children  
Father
and
children  
Registered
partnership
with
children
Persons
in families
with
underage
children    
Families
with
children
aged 17
or under  
Families
with
children
of all
families,
%
Population
belonging
to families
with
children,
%
1950 599 329 515 115 .. 74 319 9 895 .. .. 1 341 330 64,4 ..
1960 678 046 601 542 .. 67 381 9 123 .. .. 1 536 464 65,4 ..
1970 1) 677 035 602 076 5 800 61 173 7 986 .. .. 1 345 089 58,7 ..
1980 2) 688 732 572 142 32 100 74 839 9 651 .. .. 1 163 926 53,9 ..
1990 640 637 490 999 59 900 78 948 10 790 .. 2 437 592 1 135 686 46,9 48,8
2000 612 627 398 892 95 120 103 984 14 631 .. 2 317 291 1 116 687 43,7 44,7
2010 582 360 356 943 107 368 101 946 15 836 267 2 200 603 1 068 554 40,0 40,8
2011 580 547 354 567 107 738 101 963 15 940 339 2 185 130 1 061 710 39,7 40,5
2012 578 409 352 159 107 751 102 013 16 081 405 2 176 199 1 058 664 39,5 40,1
2013 575 683 347 817 109 104 102 152 16 163 447 2 166 385 1 056 606 39,1 39,7
2014 573 566 343 428 110 069 103 115 16 430 524 2 158 867 1 055 763 38,9 39,5
2015 571 470 339 342 110 891 103 972 16 661 604 2 149 905 1 053 444 38,7 39,2
%
1950 100,0 85,9 .. 12,4 1,7 .. .. .. .. ..
1960 100,0 88,7 .. 9,9 1,3 .. .. .. .. ..
1970 100,0 88,9 0,9 9,0 1,2 .. .. .. .. ..
1980 100,0 83,1 4,7 10,9 1,4 .. .. .. .. ..
1990 100,0 76,6 9,4 12,3 1,7 .. .. .. .. ..
2000 100,0 65,1 15,5 17,0 2,4 .. .. .. .. ..
2010 100,0 61,3 18,4 17,5 2,7 0,0 .. .. .. ..
2011 100,0 61,1 18,6 17,6 2,7 0,1 .. .. .. ..
2012 100,0 60,9 18,6 17,6 2,8 0,1 .. .. .. ..
2013 100,0 60,4 19,0 17,7 2,8 0,1 .. .. .. ..
2014 100,0 59,9 19,2 18,0 2,9 0,1 .. .. .. ..
2015 100,0 59,4 19,4 18,2 2,9 0,1 .. .. .. ..
1) The breakdown of the census by type of family has been revised on the basis of interview surveys. (Aromaa, Cantell & Jaakkola: Avoliitto (Consensual Union), Research Institute of Legal Policy 49, Helsinki 1981).
2) The breakdown of the census by type of family has been revised on the basis of the 1981 register-based material on families and cohabiting couples.

3.1 59 per cent of families with underage children are families of married couples

The most common family with children is still that consisting of a married couple and children. Fifty-nine per cent of the families with children were families of married couples. This is the form of family with children which has seen a steady decline, both in absolute and relative terms, but other family forms with children are still far from its numbers. The numbers of all other types of families with children grew over the year. At the end of 2015, there were 110,900 families of cohabiting couples with underage children in Finland, which equals to 19 per cent of all families with underage children. Compared with 2014, the number of families of cohabiting couples increased by 800.

Nowadays 57 per cent of firstborn children are born outside the marriage. The share has slowly increased, by six percentage points since 1997, when one-half of firstborn children were born outside the marriage. Forty-four per cent of all children born in 2015 were born outside the marriage.

The number of families formed by a mother and children has grown by nearly one thousand compared with 2014. At the end of 2015, families formed by mothers and children numbered around 104,000. Over one-fifth of all families with children are one-parent families (mother and children or father and children). Families with children whose regular composition is father and children are still quite rare. There are only 16,700 such families. Families composed of a registered couple and children under the age of 18 are even rarer, numbering around 600. Although the number of such families does not grow much in absolute terms, their relative growth is quite big, as much as 15 per cent last year compared with the previous year.

Figure 5A. Families with underage children by type of family and age of mother/single carer father in 2015

Figure 5A. Families with underage children by type of family and age of mother/single carer father in 2015

Figure 5B. Families with underage children by type of family and age of mother/single carer father in 2015, relative breakdown

Figure 5B. Families with underage children by type of family and age of mother/single carer father in 2015, relative breakdown

3.2 Share of reconstituted families still nine per cent

A reconstituted family refers to a family that has a non-common child under the age of 18, i.e. the child has, in a sense, received a new social parent. The concept is more broadly interpreted in everyday talk: the weekend families born in consequence of diverse family splits are referred to as reconstituted families. However, statistics on families must be compiled according to the child’s permanent place of residence. A child cannot be included in two families in the statistics. Divorced fathers and mothers with whom children only stay during weekends and holidays are not included in family statistics unless they have formed a new family.

There are 52,300 reconstituted families representing nine per cent of all families with underage children. The number of reconstituted families has grown slowly since 1990 when the first statistics concerning them were made, but in the past ten years, their number has more or less stayed on the same level, though even fallen slightly in some years. From 2014, the number of reconstituted families grew by a few dozen families.

Usually, the child of a reconstituted family is the mother’s and has obtained a new social father. Altogether, 48 per cent of the parents of reconstituted families are married to one another and 52 per cent cohabit. If a common child is born to a reconstituted family, the parents usually marry, but otherwise they mostly cohabit. Families with “your children, my children and our children” living in the same household are still relatively rare, numbering 900.

Table 6. Reconstituted families 1990–2015

Year   Total       Married
couple
Cohabiting
couple
Reconstituted
families as
a proportion
of families
with
children,
%
Mother's
children
Father's
children
Common
children
Children
aged 17 or
under in
reconstituted
families
Non-
common
children
as a
proportion
of children
of all
families,
%
Children in
reconstituted
families as
a proportion
of children
of all families,
%
1990 44 426 21 808 22 618 6,9 50 713 7 443 30 089 88 245 5,1 7,8
1995 42 460 19 197 23 263 6,6 50 322 7 637 29 242 87 201 5,0 7,6
2000 47 288 21 315 25 973 7,7 58 550 8 541 30 931 98 022 6,0 8,8
2005 52 204 24 722 27 482 8,8 66 228 9 746 32 465 108 439 7,0 10,0
2010 53 265 26 612 26 653 9,1 66 508 10 417 33 057 109 982 7,2 10,3
2011 53 361 26 698 26 663 9,2 66 423 10 473 33 169 110 065 7,2 10,4
2012 53 018 26 838 26 180 9,2 65 873 10 519 33 263 109 655 7,2 10,4
2013 52 709 26 316 26 393 9,2 65 196 10 761 33 611 109 568 7,2 10,4
2014 52 207 25 673 26 534 9,1 64 859 10 720 33 588 109 167 7,2 10,3
2015 52 251 25 266 26 985 9,0 64 810 10 901 33 513 109 224 7,2 10,4

3.3 Average number of children per family is 1.8

When examining the number of children in families, allowance must be made for the family’s stage of life. For example, families which have only had their firstborn are processed as one-child families in the statistics, as are also families with only their last-born living at home. Family statistics thus represent a cross-section of the situation at a given moment, i.e. the sizes of families in the country at a given point in time, and not the eventual numbers of children in families. Hence, it is difficult to compare the statistics relating to different points in time because of the uneven age structure of the population.

The clearest long-term change in the number of children in families is the fall in the number and relative proportion of families with at least four children since the 1960s (Table 7). After the mid-1980s, the number of families with at least four children started to grow, although over the 2000s, the growth has been slow. While at the same time the numbers of families with one or two children have decreased, the relative proportion of families with four or more children has risen to five per cent. In 2015, the number of families with at least four children remained on level with the year before. At the end of 2015, there were 450 families with at least ten underage children.

Table 7. Number of children in families with underage children 1950–2015

Year      Families
total
Number of children in families Average
number of
children
aged 17
or under
1                   2                   3                4 -           
1950 599 329 234 682 173 092 95 100 96 455 2,24
1960 678 046 253 285 202 408 112 446 109 907 2,27
1970 677 035 287 649 222 276 100 358 66 752 1,99
1980 688 732 333 812 264 944 70 100 19 876 1,69
1990 640 637 286 549 250 317 81 163 22 608 1,77
2000 612 627 268 369 230 758 85 025 28 475 1,82
2005 591 528 255 549 225 879 81 775 28 325 1,83
2010 582 360 254 551 222 596 76 860 28 353 1,83
2011 580 547 253 995 221 643 76 367 28 542 1,83
2012 578 409 252 986 220 806 75 969 28 648 1,83
2013 575 683 250 318 220 656 75 725 28 984 1,84
2014 573 566 247 882 220 487 76 033 29 164 1,84
2015 571 470 245 871 220 610 75 844 29 145 1,84
%
1950 100,0 39,2 28,9 15,9 16,1 ..
1960 100,0 37,4 29,9 16,6 16,2 ..
1970 100,0 42,5 32,8 14,8 9,9 ..
1980 100,0 48,5 38,5 10,2 2,9 ..
1990 100,0 44,7 39,1 12,7 3,5 ..
2000 100,0 43,8 37,7 13,9 4,6 ..
2005 100,0 43,2 38,2 13,8 4,8 ..
2010 100,0 43,7 38,2 13,2 4,9 ..
2011 100,0 43,8 38,2 13,2 4,9 ..
2012 100,0 43,7 38,2 13,1 5,0 ..
2013 100,0 43,5 38,3 13,2 5,0 ..
2014 100,0 43,2 38,4 13,3 5,1 ..
2015 100,0 43,0 38,6 13,3 5,1 ..

The average number of children in a family with underage children is not directly comparable at different points in time, because the sizes of the age groups at various stages of family life vary. This does not give exactly unambiguous information either, since the childbearing age has continuously risen. In the 2000s, the average number of children in a family with children has remained nearly unchanged.

The recent trend can be seen in Figure 6, which shows the average number of underage children living at home according to the mother's age. The fact that women giving birth have become older is visible in that mothers aged over 40 have the same number of children in each age group as in the previous year and clearly more than in 1995. In turn, mothers aged under 35 had the same number or slightly fewer children than in the mid-1990s.

Figure 6. Average number of children in families with underage children by age of mother in 1985, 1995, 2014 and 2015

Figure 6. Average number of children in families with underage children by age of mother in 1985, 1995, 2014 and 2015

Source: Population and Justice Statistics, Statistics Finland

Inquiries: Eevi Lappalainen 029 551 3367, Timo Nikander 029 551 3250 , Marjut Pietiläinen 029 551 2798, info@stat.fi

Director in charge: Jari Tarkoma


Updated 25.11.2016

Referencing instructions:

Official Statistics of Finland (OSF): Families [e-publication].
ISSN=1798-3231. Annual Review 2015, 3. Number of families with children goes on falling . Helsinki: Statistics Finland [referred: 22.5.2019].
Access method: http://www.stat.fi/til/perh/2015/02/perh_2015_02_2016-11-25_kat_003_en.html