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This topic explores the population size and social characteristics of families, children and young people. Family statistics cover married or cohabiting couples, lone parents, civil partners and same-sex couples. This includes families with no children, dependent children or non-dependent children.


Adoptions, Outcomes and Placements for Children Looked After by Local Authorities in Wales
Department: Welsh Government
Presents figures about children looked after by local authorities in Wales.
Annual Report of the Registrar General (Northern Ireland)
Department: Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency
Finalised data for all births, deaths, marriages, civil partnerships and divorces along with population data for the year in question.
Carers' Statistics for Northern Ireland
Department: Health, Social Service and Public Safety (Northern Ireland)
Carers' Statistics for Northern Ireland presents quarterly figures at a regional and Health and Social Care Trust level for completed and declined carers' assessments, re-assessments and reviews.
Census 2001 Commentaries by theme and region
Department: Office for National Statistics
The Census paints a big picture of society and is a benchmark at the start of the 21st Century. Census 2001 commentaries look in a little more depth at the 'big picture' for the UK, and provide commentary on aspects of a topic in England and Wales as a whole, and on topics in Wales or the English regions. The counts that the commentaries are based on come from the Key Statistics for local authorities in England and Wales released in February 2003.
Child Healthy Weight Interventions Statistics
Department: ISD Scotland (part of NHS National Services Scotland)
Annual update of the number of child healthy weight interventions undertaken by NHS boards. This data is used to monitor HEAT Targets.
Children's Social Care Statistics in Northern Ireland
Department: Health, Social Service and Public Safety (Northern Ireland)
This bulletin presents first release summary statistics on children's social care in Northern Ireland for year ending 31 March. Where data are available, each section will provide information on the latest annual figures including a Trust breakdown, detailed commentary, and an overview of how the latest annual figures compare to recent trends. The bulletin is based on Children Order Returns used to collect aggregated statistics on children in need, child protection and looked after children.
Cohabitation Estimates: England and Wales
Department: Office for National Statistics
The number of people aged 16 and over in each marital status category who are in an opposite-sex, co-residential cohabiting partnership, by age and sex.
ESF Provision for Families with Multiple Problems
Department: Work and Pensions
The first release of statistics on the DWP European Social Fund Provision for Families with Multiple Problems. Comprises attachments, progress measures and sustained job outcomes.
Families and Households
Department: Office for National Statistics
Presents estimates of families by type, including married and cohabiting couple families and lone parents. Tables on household size and household types are also provided.
Family Resources Survey Reports (Northern Ireland)
Department: Social Development (Northern Ireland)
Information collected from the Family Resources Survey.
Family size
Department: Office for National Statistics
Families in the UK by the number of dependent children they have, with focus on those with three or more children, examining trends over time and where such families live.
Focus on Families
Department: Office for National Statistics
Presents estimates of families by type, including married and cohabiting couple families and lone parents. It also examines the health, unpaid care and education of families.
Fostering and Adoption Intermediary Services
Department: Welsh Government
Statistics on fostering and adoption intermediary services.
Lifetime Opportunities Monitoring Framework
Department: Office of the First and Deputy First Minister
This report presents a range of statistical targets and indicators in support of the Northern Ireland Executive’s anti poverty and social inclusion strategy ‘Lifetime Opportunities'. The monitoring framework is structured around 3 ‘layers’: • Child poverty targets • Poverty and social inclusion indicators • Public service agreement targets Analyses of statistics are on a lifecycle basis and are benchmarked against other jurisdictions when possible
Measuring Sexual Identity : Evaluation Report
Department: Office for National Statistics
This is an evaluation based on the Integrated Household Survey (IHS) experimental data, collected between April 2009 - March 2010.
Non-residential Parental Contact
Department: Office for National Statistics
A report on research using the National Statistics Omnibus Survey produced on behalf of the Ministry of Justice and the Department for Children, Schools and Families.
Social Justice Familiy Stability Indicator
Department: Work and Pensions
The percentage of children not living with both of their birth parents, by: -age of child -household income The estimated percentage of children living with both birth parents where the parents report happiness or unhappiness in their parental relationship.
Urban Rural Reports (Northern Ireland)
Department: Social Development (Northern Ireland)
Looks at data from the Family Resources Survey classified by urban/rural regions.
Young adults living with parents
Department: Office for National Statistics
Characteristics of young adults aged between 20 and 34 who live with their parents.

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Families in the UK

Most of us live in families and most of us live in households containing one family. Many of these are ‘traditional’ families of a married couple with children, but increasingly people are experiencing family life within a cohabiting couple or a lone parent family. The recent patterns of family dynamics – the decline and delay of marriage and child-bearing, and the increase in divorce, cohabitation and births outside marriage – also mean that individuals are more likely to experience a greater variety of family structures throughout their lifetimes. Consequently there is an increasing minority who live in ‘reconstituted’ families as family units break up and reform.

Children and Young People

An understanding of families is crucial for those involved in planning and decision-making at the national and local level. Moreover, at one time or another, every member of society is part of, or affected by, his or her family situation. This is particularly true for children and young people, and it is therefore important to examine the lives of children and young people in contemporary UK society. This includes information on their characteristics, experiences, wellbeing and lifestyle, in addition to population estimates of children and young people and the family types in which they live.

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Technical Data

The Census and most government surveys, including the General Lifestyle Survey (GLF) and the Labour Force Survey (LFS), collect statistical data on households and their members. As a result, there are a number of different sources available, each with their own purpose and advantages.

Data from the LFS provides a large sample of all people in households. It gives UK-wide coverage of all major family types. The LFS has provided full and comprehensive family data since 1996 when the relationship matrix was introduced.

The GLF was a survey of households in Great Britain, which was carried out between 1971 and 2011. It provides households and families data over a longer period of time than the LFS, but was based on a smaller sample of the population of Great Britain. The family information section of the GLF allowed more detail, such as analysis of relationship histories. In 2012, the questions from the GLF on family information were incorporated into the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey.

The Census can be used for more detailed analysis. For example, analysis by lower level geography (county, borough or ward level), age and ethnic group. More detailed breakdowns of family types in the UK, such as by the age and number of children, are also possible.

Other sources of data, such as registered life events and other social surveys, are used to illustrate the trends and patterns that influence family and household formation. Life events include information on marriages, divorces, civil partnerships and adoptions.

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  • Children

    Unless otherwise specified, children are usually defined as those aged 16 and under. However, in some cases other age breakdowns are used, and it is common in family statistics to extend the definition of children to include all dependent children. See: Dependent children

  • Cohabiting or cohabitation

    In the Census, living arrangements are calculated by combining the responses to the questions on legal marital status and the relationship question. In the Labour Force Survey (LFS), living arrangements are asked directly in the questionnaires. One of the main reasons for analysing living arrangements is so that cohabiting couples can be identified. Cohabiting couples may be married or have any other marital status. 

  • Dependent child

    Defined in the census, the Labour Force Survey (LFS), as a child living with their parent or parents, who is under 16-years-old or aged 16 to 18 in full-time education. It does not include any children who have a spouse, partner or child living in the household.

  • Family

    A married or cohabiting couple with or without children or a lone parent. Children may be dependent or non-dependent. In the Labour Force Survey (LFS) and Census, cohabiting couple families include same-sex couples. A family can also consist of a grandparent or grandparents with a grandchild or grandchildren if the parents of the child or children do not usually live in the household. In the 2001 Census, less than one per cent of all families were a grandparent family.

  • Household

    The 2011 Census and Labour Force Survey define this as one person living alone, or a group of people (not necessarily related) living at the same address who share cooking facilities and share a living room or sitting room or dining area. Households do not include people living in communal establishments such as prisons, care homes or halls of residence.

  • Living arrangements

    See Cohabitation.

  • Lone parent family

    Defined in the 2011 Census as a father or mother living with his or her child or children. This is providing that the children do not have a spouse, partner or child in the household. A lone parent family can also be a grandparent with a grandchild or grandchildren. This is providing that the child or children have no parents living in the household. The LFS definition is a lone parent living with his or her never-married children. This is providing that these children have no children of their own living with them. The GLF definition is one parent, regardless of sex, living with his or her never-married dependent children. This is providing these children have no children of their own.

  • Marital or same-sex civil partnership status

    The legal marital status of an individual or couple. The introduction of Civil Partnerships in 2005 expanded the possible responses to questions on legal marital status. The Labour Force Survey (LFS) available responses are: single (never married); married (living with husband or wife); married (separated from husband or wife); divorced; widowed; a civil partner in a legally-recognised civil partnership; in a legally-recognised civil partnership and separated from his or her civil partner; formerly a civil partner, the civil partnership now legally dissolved; or a surviving civil partner: his or her partner having since died.

  • Non-dependent children

    Children aged 16 and over living with their parent or parents who have no spouse, partner or child living in the household. The definition does not include those aged 16 to 18 in full-time education. Non-dependent children are sometimes called adult children.

  • Relationship matrix or relationship grid

    A major change to information collected about households and families in the 1993 GLF was the introduction of the relationship matrix question. The new question asked about the relationship of every household member to every other household member. Before this question was introduced, the survey used to only ask the relationship of every household member to the head of the household. The relationship matrix question is now used in the LFS and was used in the 2001 and 2011 censuses. As well as identifying family units, the matrix helps statisticians to group individuals in different ways. For example, extended families and other relationships are recognised.

  • Young people

    Young people are usually defined as those aged over 16 and under 25, however in some cases other age breakdowns are used.

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Contact Details

For statistical enquiries about this topic, please contact:

ONS Customer Contact Centre


Telephone: +44 (0)845 601 3034 Minicom/textphone: 01633 815044

Office for National Statistics Room 1.101 Government Buildings Cardiff Road Newport NP10 8XG

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