Two in five Australian children live in households with more complex family relationships at some stage during their childhood.
“Complex” households are simply non-traditional households, where children may live with: a single parent; a non-biological parent; step or half-siblings (i.e., “blended” families); or a grandparent.
The term may seem to imply that there is something unusual about these environments. In fact “complex” households are very much in the mainstream.
Over 40% of children—or two in five—had experienced some form of family complexity before they reach the age of 13. The most common form is families with a single parent or with a non-biological parent.
The nature of complex households
Children are more likely to be exposed to household parental complexity as they grow because of new parental relationships or relationship breakdowns.
Complex households can be more unstable, with children facing challenges from living with a single parent, non-biological parents or changes to parents’ relationships or living arrangements.
Indigenous children were the most likely to have experienced household complexity, with 7 in 10 Indigenous children experiencing some form of family complexity.
Only 25% of children with well-educated parents experienced household complexity, compared to 74% of children with less-well educated parents.
Parents who had experienced parental separation in childhood were around 15% more likely to form complex families themselves.