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 underage children, defined as families having at least one child under the age of 18 living at home, are discussed in Section 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 2017, there were 1,472,000 families in Finland. The number of families fell the first time during the family statistics. Their number fell by 4,100 from the year before.

Altogether 74 per cent of the Finnish population belongs to a family. The proportion has decreased by 0.4 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 fell by 17,000 during 2017. The country's total population increased by 10,000 persons. At the end of 2017, the average size of a family was 2.8 persons.

Table 1. Family population and average size of family in 1950 to 2017

Year   Families
total         
Family
population
Popu-
lation
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
2012 1 465 733 4 075 094 5 426 674 75,1 2,8
2013 1 471 085 4 081 903 5 451 270 74,9 2,8
2014 1 473 666 4 084 001 5 471 753 74,6 2,8
2015 1 475 335 4 084 544 5 487 308 74,4 2,8
2016 1 475 583 4 072 565 5 503 297 74,0 2,8
2017 1 471 500 4 055 224 5 513 130 73,6 2,8

The commonest family type in Finland is still a married couple without children, making up 36 per cent of all families in 2017. As recently as in 2004, the most common family type in Finland was a married couple with children of some age living at home. Twenty-eight per cent of all families were families of a married couple with children in 2017. 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 cohabiting couples turned to a decline, while it has been growing slowly in recent years. As in the previous year, the relative share of families of cohabiting couples in all families was 23 per cent. However, cohabiting couples without children still make up only 15 per cent of all families. Today, eight per cent of all families are cohabiting couples with children.

"Mother and children" families represent 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.

At the beginning of March 2017, an amendment to the Marriage Act entered into force, as a result of which part of registered partners have changed their partnership into marriage and new registered partners can no longer be formed. At the end of 2017, there were 640 male couples and 834 female couples in a registered partnership, which is in total 1,210 couples fewer than in 2016. The number of male married couples was 524 and that of female married couples 1,042. Thus, there were almost 1,600 (0.1%) families of same-sex married couples. Of them, 67 per cent were families of female couples. There were 395 families of same-sex married couples with children.

Table 2. Families by type in 1950 to 2017

Year     Total   Married
couple
without
children 1)
Married
couple
with
children 2)
Co-
habiting
couple
with
children
Co-
habiting
couple
without
children
Mother
and
children
Father
and
children
Regis-
tered
male
couple 3)
Regis-
tered
female
couple 3)
1950 930 572 176 650 593 763 .. .. 137 803 22 356 .. ..
1960 1 036 270 207 897 678 822 .. .. 129 706 19 845 .. ..
1970 4) 1 153 878 260 562 722 001 6 800 19 100 126 394 19 021 .. ..
1980 5) 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 .. ..
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
2013 1 471 085 525 933 434 571 120 040 208 264 149 110 30 955 905 1 307
2014 1 473 666 527 238 429 811 121 499 211 673 149 668 31 342 991 1 444
2015 1 475 335 528 539 424 185 121 657 215 620 150 274 31 452 1 023 1 585
2016 1 475 583 529 697 418 032 123 321 218 439 151 459 31 951 1 052 1 632
2017 1 471 500 531 575 412 497 123 234 217 644 152 460 32 616 640 834
%
1950 100,0 19,0 63,8 .. .. 14,8 2,4 .. ..
1960 100,0 20,1 65,5 .. .. 12,5 1,9 .. ..
1970 4) 100,0 22,6 62,6 0,6 1,7 11,0 1,6 .. ..
1980 5) 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 .. ..
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
2013 100,0 35,8 29,5 8,2 14,2 10,1 2,1 0,1 0,1
2014 100,0 35,8 29,2 8,2 14,4 10,2 2,1 0,1 0,1
2015 100,0 35,8 28,8 8,3 14,6 10,2 2,1 0,1 0,1
2016 100,0 35,9 28,3 8,4 14,8 10,3 2,2 0,1 0,1
2017 100,0 36,0 28,0 8,4 14,8 10,4 2,2 0,0 0,1
1) Of families of the type “married couple without children”, 519 were families of male couples and 652 families of female couples in 2017.
2) Families of the type “same-sex married couple with children” numbered 395 in 2017.
3) Families of the type "registered couple with children" numbered 363 in 2017.
4) 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).
5) 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 Children of women aged 53 have moved away from home

Women's family types differ at different life stages. The most typical family type for women aged under 29 with family is "cohabiting couple without children". Already for women aged 29, the commonest family type is “married couple with children”. This is natural as nowadays the first child is born at the average age of 29.2 and the first marriage is contracted at the average age of 31.7. “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 92 years of age) tend to include a child rather than a husband. Just nine per cent of women of this age belong to the family population. In the light of family statistics, old age is different for men than for women. Thirty-five per cent of the men aged at least 92 belong to families. Then the family is typically a married couple without any children living with them.

Figure 1. Families by type and age of wife/mother in 2016 (families with father and children by age of father)

Figure 1. Families by type and age of wife/mother in 2016 (families with father and children by age of father)

Figure 2. Families by type and age of wife/mother in 2017 (families with father and children by age of father), relative breakdown

Figure 2. Families by type and age of wife/mother in 2017 (families with father and children by age of father), relative breakdown

1.2 First marriages for 80 per cent of married couples

Up to the age of 39, 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 26. 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 64 per cent of all families and for 74 per cent of all married and cohabiting couples. Cohabiting couples make up 23 per cent of all families and 26 per cent of all married and cohabiting couples.

In 80 per cent of all married couples both spouses are married for the first time. In 68 per cent of the cohabiting couples neither spouse has 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.

1.3 Majority of cohabiting persons are unmarried

Seventy-four per cent of the women and 75 per cent of the men living with a cohabiting partner without children are unmarried, so there is hardly any difference between genders here. More cohabiting women than cohabiting men are widows. There is not much difference in the marital status of women and men living with children and cohabiting partners.

Mothers and fathers in one-parent families differ in their marital status. More than one-half of the fathers and 43 per cent of the mothers are divorced. One-third of the mothers are unmarried and around one-fifth of the fathers. 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 only. 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: there are fewer widows and more persons representing all other marital status groups. It is worth noting that relatively more fathers than mothers of one-parent families with children 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. Of mothers of one-parent families with children, 42 per cent are unmarried, some from the start having become mothers without a spouse, but a large number as the result of dissolved cohabitation.

Table 3. Marital status of the man/woman/father/mother in a cohabiting partnership and in a one-parent family in 2017, %

Marital
status
Type of family
Co-
habiting
man
no
children
Co-
habiting
woman
no
children
Co-
habiting
man
with
children
Co-
habiting
woman
with
children
Father
and
children
Father
and
children
aged
17 or
under
Mother
and
children
Mother
and
children
aged
17 or
under
Unmarried 74,4 73,9 78,5 79,3 21,2 28,1 33,9 41,7
Married 0,7 0,6 0,6 0,6 13,5 15,5 10,7 12,8
Divorced 22,8 21,9 20,4 19,2 51,0 52,1 42,8 43,1
Widowed 1,8 3,7 0,5 0,9 14,3 4,3 12,7 2,4
Total 100,0 100,0 100,0 100,0 100,0 100,0 100,0 100,0
Number 217 644 217 644 123 234 123 234 32 616 17 641 152 460 106 939

Source: Population and Justice Statistics, Statistics Finland

Inquiries: Marjut Pietiläinen 029 551 2798, Joonas Toivola 029 551 3355, Timo Nikander 029 551 3250, info@stat.fi

Director in charge: Jari Tarkoma


Updated 5.12.2018

Referencing instructions:

Official Statistics of Finland (OSF): Families [e-publication].
ISSN=1798-3231. Annual Review 2017, 1. Married couple without children is still the commonest family type . Helsinki: Statistics Finland [referred: 18.10.2019].
Access method: http://www.stat.fi/til/perh/2017/02/perh_2017_02_2018-12-05_kat_001_en.html