Nuclear Families Shrinking

The traditional nuclear family is on the wane as childless couples become more common.

The number of Australian households with nuclear families has been forecast to drop from 33 per cent to 22 per cent by 2026, according to data from AustraliaSCAN, which is run by Quantum Market Research.

The number of single households and couples without children is predicted to overtake the traditional household of mum, dad and kids.

Single person households are expected to increase from 24 per cent to 31 per cent, creating the largest demographic. Empty nesters are included in the couples without children category.

The shift has been attributed to financial pressures, an increased divorce rate, fewer marriages, people living longer and an ageing population.

Quantum Market Research managing director Imogen Randell says the traditional family structure is shrinking as a household group.

"If the trend continues as it has done for the past 30 years it could be that by 2026 they are in the minority," she says.

"We are living longer and, as we age, it's more likely that we will end up living alone, either divorced or widowed.

"Our population is ageing, fewer people are getting married and the fertility rate is currently below replacement levels (at about two babies per woman)."

A further AustraliaSCAN survey of 2000 people revealed 80 per cent believe a good marriage and happy children are indicators of an accomplished life.

Melbourne family psychologist Sally-Anne McCormack says she is shocked by the AustraliaSCAN predictions.

"People are putting off children later," McCormack says.

"And I'm seeing a growing trend where people are less willing to work on a relationship and will just leave if it gets too hard.”

Australian Institute of Family Studies figures show that in 2011 the average family size was 4.5 children, while in 2006 it had diminished to 2.6.

Australian Institute of Family Studies director Professor Alan Hayes says this drop is due to contraception and better-educated women putting off childbirth until they have established their careers.

"I do not see this as the demise of the family. They are coming in smaller sizes and a wider range of shapes," he says.