1. Married couple without children is still the commonest family type

Families are classified according to whether the spouses are married, cohabiting or in a registered partnership and whether they have children. In addition to this, there are one-parent families as a separate category. In this classification, no limit is set as to the age of a child. Families with children, defined as families having at least one child under the age of 18 living at home, are discussed in Chapter 3. Where families with underage children are concerned, parents are also referred to as supporters. In the following examination, one-parent families are not only single-supporter families, as a person having the status of a child living with his/her mother or father may be of any age..

At the end of 2012, there were 1,466,000 families in Finland. Their number grew by 5,200 from the year before. The increase was 300 smaller than in the previous year.

Altogether, 75 per cent of the Finnish population belongs to a family. The proportion decreased by 0.3 percentage points from the previous year. The rate of its decrease has remained at this level since the beginning of the 1990s. The proportion of the family population was at its highest in the 1960s and 1970s, when 87 per cent of the population belonged to a family. The number of persons belonging to a family rose by 5,200 during 2012. Total population increased by 25,000 persons. At the end of 2012, the average size of a family in Finland was 2.78 persons.

Table 1. Family population and average size of family in 1950–2012

Year   Families total  Family population Population      Proportion of family population, % Average size of family
1950 930 572 3 457 474 4 029 803 85,8 3,7
1960 1 036 270 3 855 037 4 446 222 86,7 3,7
1970 1 153 878 3 986 005 4 598 336 86,7 3,5
1980 1 278 102 4 023 091 4 787 778 84,0 3,1
1990 1 365 341 4 101 922 4 998 478 82,1 3,0
2000 1 401 963 4 053 850 5 181 115 78,2 2,9
2010 1 455 073 4 065 168 5 375 276 75,6 2,8
2011 1 460 570 4 069 930 5 401 267 75,4 2,8
2012 1 465 733 4 075 094 5 426 674 75,1 2,8

The commonest family type in Finland is still a married couple without children, making up 36 per cent of all families in 2012. As recently as in 2004, the most common family type in Finland was married couple with children of some age living at home. In 2012, 30 per cent of all families were families of a married couple with children. However, the number of such families has been on the decline for a long time, whereas the number of married couples without children has been rising. The number of married couples living with their children decreased by 3,100 from the previous year, whereas from 2005 to 2006 the number decreased by 6,700. Because the yearly changes are small, it is difficult to pinpoint clearly the reasons for the decreases and increases in the numbers of the different family types.

The number and proportion of cohabiting couples among families is also growing. However, cohabiting couples without children make up only 14 per cent of all families. Today, eight per cent of all families are cohabiting couples with children. The number has been growing slowly in recent years.

The number of “mother and children” families has declined in recent years. These families represented ten per cent of all families. “Father and children” families are still rare; they number only two in one hundred. Their relative proportion has not changed much over the past few years.

Table 2. Families by type in 1950–2012

Year     Total       Married couple without children Married couple with children Cohabiting couple with children Cohabiting couple without children Mother and children Father and children Registered male couple 1) Registered female couple 1)
1950 930 572 176 650 593 763 .. .. 137 803 22 356 .. ..
1960 1 036 270 207 897 678 822 .. .. 129 706 19 845 .. ..
1970 2) 1 153 878 260 562 722 001 6 800 19 100 126 394 19 021 .. ..
1980 3) 1 278 102 302 818 711 226 36 200 65 900 140 725 21 233 .. ..
1990 1 365 341 364 452 640 062 65 896 123 471 147 297 24 161 .. ..
2000 1 401 963 436 019 514 868 102 581 160 132 159 432 28 931 .. ..
2001 1 407 759 446 404 501 981 105 399 166 601 158 440 28 934 .. ..
2002 1 411 947 454 977 492 524 107 443 170 368 157 143 29 093 207 192
2003 1 415 104 462 561 483 140 109 672 174 144 156 235 29 352 271 275
2004 1 420 781 471 962 475 705 111 294 177 095 154 851 29 192 325 357
2005 1 426 002 481 209 468 266 112 847 180 590 153 024 29 238 398 430
2006 1 431 376 488 880 461 569 114 671 184 732 151 475 29 101 455 493
2007 1 437 709 496 814 456 235 115 860 188 172 150 251 29 288 527 562
2008 1 444 386 504 728 452 180 115 966 191 177 149 631 29 460 579 665
2009 1 450 488 509 916 448 897 116 797 193 894 149 823 29 765 625 771
2010 1 455 073 513 889 446 433 117 254 195 967 149 651 30 278 706 895
2011 1 460 570 518 550 442 257 118 054 200 171 149 196 30 534 773 1 035
2012 1 465 733 523 221 439 194 118 136 203 334 149 143 30 714 829 1 162
%
1950 100,0 19,0 63,8 .. .. 14,8 2,4 .. ..
1960 100,0 20,1 65,5 .. .. 12,5 1,9 .. ..
1970 2) 100,0 22,6 62,6 0,6 1,7 11,0 1,6 .. ..
1980 3) 100,0 23,7 55,6 2,8 5,2 11,0 1,7 .. ..
1990 100,0 26,7 46,9 4,8 9,0 10,8 1,8 .. ..
2000 100,0 31,1 36,7 7,3 11,4 11,4 2,1 .. ..
2001 100,0 31,7 35,7 7,5 11,8 11,3 2,1 .. ..
2002 100,0 32,2 34,9 7,6 12,1 11,1 2,1 0,0 0,0
2003 100,0 32,7 34,1 7,8 12,3 11,0 2,1 0,0 0,0
2004 100,0 33,2 33,5 7,8 12,5 10,9 2,1 0,0 0,0
2005 100,0 33,7 32,8 7,9 12,7 10,7 2,1 0,0 0,0
2006 100,0 34,2 32,2 8,0 12,9 10,6 2,0 0,0 0,0
2007 100,0 34,6 31,7 8,1 13,1 10,5 2,0 0,0 0,0
2008 100,0 34,9 31,3 8,0 13,2 10,4 2,0 0,0 0,0
2009 100,0 35,2 30,9 8,1 13,4 10,3 2,1 0,0 0,1
2010 100,0 35,3 30,7 8,1 13,5 10,3 2,1 0,0 0,1
2011 100,0 35,5 30,3 8,1 13,7 10,2 2,1 0,1 0,1
2012 100,0 35,7 30,0 8,1 13,9 10,2 2,1 0,1 0,1
1) Families of the type "registered couple with children" numbered 418.
2) 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).
3) 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.

1.1 Commonest family type for young women is cohabiting couple without children

Women's family type varies by age. The most typical family type for young women aged under 28 with family is "cohabiting couple without children". Already for 28-year-old women, the commonest family type is “married couple with children”. “Married couple without children” only becomes the most typical family type for women once they have turned 53. The families of the oldest women (at least 90 years of age) tend to include a child rather than a husband. Only ten per cent of women of this age belong to the family population. In the light of family statistics, old age is rather different for men. For example, nearly half of the men aged 89 belong to families, i.e. 47 per cent. Forty per cent of the men aged at least 89 belong to families. Then the family is typically a married couple without children living with them.

Figure 1A. Families by type and age of wife/mother in 2012 (families with father and children by age of father)

Figure 1A. Families by type and age of wife/mother in 2012 (families with father and children by age of father)

Figure 1B. Families by type and age of wife/mother in 2012 (families with father and children by age of father), relative breakdown

Figure 1B. Families by type and age of wife/mother in 2012 (families with father and children by age of father), relative breakdown

1.2 Number of registered partnerships is fairly low

At the end of 2012, 829 male couples and 1,162 female couples lived in a registered partnership, which was a total of 183 couples more than in 2011. In most of the tables in this publication these families are included in married couples. In some of the tables on the whole country, these families form a group of their own. For reasons of privacy protection, this information can be given by municipality only if the couples number at least five.

Figure 2 shows the age distribution of registered male and female couples according to the younger partner. The male couples are older than the female couples. In the other figures registered couples are given among married couples. There are still so few of them that they would not be distinguishable as a separate group.

Figur 2. Registrerade partnerskap efter den yngre partnerns ålder år 2012

Figur 2. Registrerade partnerskap efter den yngre partnerns ålder år 2012

The age difference of registered couples is bigger than that of married couples. The average age difference of registered couples is 5.7 years, while that between married couples is 3.4 years, on average. The age difference of registered male couples is 7.1 years, on average, which is clearly higher than the average figure for female couples, 4.7 years. In contrast, the proportion of partners of same age is lower for registered couples (8.3%) than for married ones (12.5%). The age difference is at least 20 years for 3.5 per cent of registered couples, while only 0.4 per cent of married couples have an age difference of 20 years or more. For registered male couples the age difference was at least 20 years (7.1%) clearly more often than for female couples (0.9%).

1.3 Four-fifths of married couples are married for the first time

Cohabitation is the form of family life chosen by young couples without children. Up to the age of 38, women without children tend to prefer cohabitation to marriage. Where mothers are concerned, the only ones to favour cohabitation over marriage are in the small group of mothers aged under 25. The majority of mothers older than this living with their spouses are married. The older the woman, the more likely she is to be married to her spouse.

Married couples account for 66 per cent of all families and for 75 per cent of all married and cohabiting couples. Cohabiting couples make up 22 per cent of all families. Of the families consisting of spouses living together,one-quarter are cohabiting couples.

In 82 per cent of all married couples both spouses are married for the first time. Thus, the conventional form of family can still be considered to prevail in Finland. In 67 per cent of the cohabiting couples neither spouse had been previously married. Hence, on average, there are clearly more couples where one of the spouses has been married before among cohabiting couples than among married couples. In 85 per cent of the registered male couples neither partner has been married before, the figure for female couples is 75 per cent.

1.4 Marital status is not a good indicator of a person's family

.

In the past, a person's marital status revealed quite much about his or her family. Today, hardly any conclusions can be drawn from a person’s marital status. In the Nordic Countries, marital status is losing meaning as a demographic variable.

Seventy-four per cent of the women and 75 per cent of the men living with a cohabiting partner without children are unmarried. More cohabiting women than cohabiting men are widows..

Slightly more of the men than of the women living with children and a cohabiting partner are unmarried. There are no longer much differences in the share of divorces between women and men. Previously, the share of divorces was higher among women than men. Slightly more cohabiting mothers than cohabiting fathers are also widowed.

Table 3. Marital status of the man/woman/father/mother in a cohabiting partnership and in a one-parent family in 2012

Marital status Type of family
Cohabiting man no children Cohabiting woman no children Cohabiting man with children Cohabiting woman with children Father and children Father and children aged under 18 Mother and children Mother and children aged under 18
Unmarried 75,0 73,9 78,8 78,2 19,3 27,6 32,2 41,0
Married 0,8 0,6 0,5 0,4 12,9 15,0 10,4 12,7
Divorced 22,4 21,4 20,2 20,2 51,3 52,3 42,5 43,5
Widowed 1,8 4,1 0,6 1,1 16,5 5,1 14,9 2,8
Total 100,0 100,0 100,0 100,0 100,0 100,0 100,0 100,0
N 203 297 203 282 118 130 118 118 30 704 16 079 149 000 101 896

Mothers and fathers in one-parent families differ in their marital status. More than one-half of the fathers but fewer of the mothers are divorced. Altogether, 32 per cent of mothers but only 19 per cent of fathers are unmarried. However, it should be noted here that no limit is set on the age of a child, i.e. we are not referring to single supporters. The child of a one-parent family can be of any age, meaning that families formed by old widowed mothers and their grown-up children, for example, are included.

Table 3 also contains columns for one-parent families, that is, fathers and mothers whose children are underage. Their marital status structure differs most clearly from the group of all one-parent families. They include fewer widowed persons and more persons representing other marital status groups. It is noteworthy that relatively more single fathers than single mothers are widowed, although fewer fathers than mothers become widowed. In divorces, children usually stay with their mother, but there is no choice in the case of death. As many as 41 per cent of single mothers are unmarried; some having been single parents from the outset but a large number as the result of a divorce.


Source: Population and Cause of Death Statistics, Statistics Finland

Inquiries: Marjut Pietiläinen 09 1734 2798, Timo Nikander 09 1734 3250, vaesto.tilasto@stat.fi

Director in charge: Riitta Harala


Updated 13.1.2014

Referencing instructions:

Official Statistics of Finland (OSF): Families [e-publication].
ISSN=1798-3231. Annual Review 2012, 1. Married couple without children is still the commonest family type . Helsinki: Statistics Finland [referred: 20.8.2019].
Access method: http://www.stat.fi/til/perh/2012/02/perh_2012_02_2013-11-22_kat_001_en.html