Published: 22 May 2020

Number of families with small children has fallen by almost one fifth in the 2010s

Added 22 May 2020. The added data are indicated in red.

According to Statistics Finland, the number of families with children aged under three decreased by 5,565 families in 2019 from the previous year. Compared with 2010, the number of these families has fallen by 18 per cent. Of all family types, the number of families formed by a married couple and children aged under three decreased most, by as much as 26 per cent. The decrease in the number of families with small children is in line with the decline in the birth rate.

Families with children aged under three by type of family in 2010 to 2019

Families with children aged under three by type of family in 2010 to 2019
1) Includes registered same-sex partnerships and from 2017 onwards same-sex married couples.

Number of families continued to decline

There were 1,467,368 families in Finland at the end of 2019. The number of families continued to decrease in 2019 and declined by 1,313 families.

In family statistics, families are formed based on the data of the Population Information System on persons living in the same dwelling. There are some limitations to forming a statistical family based on register data alone. One such limitation is that a family of a cohabiting couple is only formed for persons of opposite sexes. The second is related to new family forms, such as those where a couple living in a permanent partnership is not living together. The formation of statistical families is described in more detail in the quality description.

The number of childless couples continued growing

Examined by family type, 64 per cent of all families were families of married couples. The number of families formed by opposite-sex married couples and children decreased by 8,117 families from the previous year. The number of families formed by cohabiting couples and children, in turn, decreased by 304 families from the previous year. By contrast, the number of cohabiting families without children increased by 4,091. Same-sex cohabiting couples are not formed in family statistics, but only cohabiting couples of opposite sexes are taken into consideration here. The number of opposite-sex married couples without children grew by 1,606 families. Couples whose children have already moved away from home are also recorded as childless in the statistics, and not only those who are genuinely childless. The number of one-parent families also grew by 593 families. Unlike in previous years, the number of families consisting of a mother and children no longer grew but diminished by 129 families. In contrast, the number of families consisting of a father and children grew by 722.

The number of same-sex married couples increased by 338, while the number of registered couples decreased by 128. The development is a natural continuum of the amendment to the Marriage Act that entered into force at the beginning of March 2017, as a result of which part of registered partners have changed their partnership into marriage and new registered partnerships can no longer be formed. There were 1,154 families formed by couples in registered partnerships and 2,318 families of same-sex married couples. Of them, 62 per cent were families of female couples. Twenty-four per cent of families were families of cohabiting couples and 13 per cent were one-parent families, which is the same as in the previous year. In 2019, there were 1,221,456 persons living alone, or 30,159 more than in the previous year.

The average size of a family was 2.74. As late as in 1990, the average size of a family was three persons. Seventy-three per cent of the population, or 4,013,944 persons, belonged to a family, which is 19,777 fewer than in the year before. The share of persons belonging to a family has been decreasing steadily. As late as 1990, their share of the population was 82 per cent.

Ever fewer families with children

The total number of families with children was 558,302. The number declined by 3,663 from the year before. The decrease is 614 lower than in the previous year, but clearly higher than on average in the last good ten years, when the annual decrease has been around 2,000. A family with children has at least one child under the age of 18. The decrease in the number of families with children mainly indicates that the age groups of children coming of age in the families is larger than the new age groups being born. In addition to the size of age groups being born and coming of age, the number is also influenced by other factors, such as international migration.

A total of 38 per cent of the population belonged to families with children. The most common family type of families with children was still a family formed by an opposite-sex married couple, making up 57 per cent of families with children. One-fifth of families with children were families of cohabiting couples. The share of families formed by a mother and children among families with children was also 20 per cent. Even though the number of families formed by father and children has grown, their number is still very low, three per cent. A same-sex married couple was a parent in 593 families with children and a registered couple in 245 families with children.

The average number of children was 1.8 in families with children

There were a total of 1,028,030 underage children in families with children, 9,965 down from the previous year. The average number of children was 1.84 in families with children. The figure has remained stable, although the number of children has declined. Of families with children, 43 per cent had one child, 39 per cent two children and 13 per cent three children. Five per cent of families with children had at least four children aged under 18. The shares have remained unchanged.

In family statistics, children are included in a family based on where they are registered. So, in case of divorce, the child is only included in the family of one parent even if the parents would in practice have joint custody. Children’s shared residence was studied in the ad hoc module of Statistics Finland's Labour Force Survey in 2018. Data on shared residence were published on 17 June 2019. According to the results, there were altogether around 110,000 children living in two homes and 40,000 of these children lived equally much in both homes.

Family statistics describe the size of families in Finland at a given moment and thus do not represent the eventual number of children in families.

Every tenth child is living in a reconstituted family

At the end of 2019, there were 50,607 reconstituted families. The number of reconstituted families went down by 110 from the previous year. The share of reconstituted families in families with children has remained at nine per cent since 2004. Slightly over one-half, 54 per cent, of the parents of reconstituted families were cohabiting and close on one-half, 46 per cent, were married. Only families of opposite-sex couples are taken into account in reconstituted families.

On average, reconstituted families have two children, i.e. slightly more than families with children in general. Sixty per cent of the children were brought into the family by their mother. The share has remained at almost the same level for a quarter century. A reconstituted family is a family with at least one child aged under 18 of one parent only.

Families by type in 1990 to 2019

Type of
family 
1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 Change 
2018–2019
Families 
total
1 365 341 1 382 970 1 401 963 1 426 002 1 455 073 1 475 335 1 475 583 1 471 500 1 468 681 1 467 368 -1 313
Married
opposite-
sex
couple
without 
children
364 452 395 953 436 019 481 209 513 889 528 539 529 697 530 404 532 304 533 910 1 606
Married 
opposite-
sex
couple
with
children
640 062 579 578 514 868 468 266 446 433 424 185 418 032 412 102 404 142 396 025 -8 117
Married
same-sex  
couple,
men 1)
.. .. .. .. .. .. .. 524 675 784 109
Married 
same-sex
couple,
women
1)
.. .. .. .. .. .. .. 1 042 1 305 1 534 229
Cohabiting
opposite-
sex
couple
no children
123 471 135 996 160 132 180 590 195 967 215 620 218 439 217 644 220 179 224 270 4 091
Cohabiting
opposite-
sex
couple
with 
children
65 896 85 309 102 581 112 847 117 254 122 657 123 321 123 234 122 614 122 918 304
Mother and
children
147 297 159 063 159 432 153 024 149 651 150 274 151 459 152 460 152 888 152 759 -129
Father and
children
24 163 27 071 28 931 29 238 30 278 31 452 31 951 32 616 33 292 34 014 722
Registered
male 
couple 1)
.. .. .. 398 706 1 023 1 052 640 586 547 -39
Registered
female 
couple 1)
.. .. .. 430 895 1 585 1 632 834 696 607 -89
Family 
population
4 101 922 4 093 038 4 053 850 4 037 753 4 065 168 4 080 544 4 072 565 4 055 224 4 033 721 4 013 944 -19 777
Population
31.12.
4 998 478 5 116 829 5 181 115 5 255 580 5 375 276 5 487 308 5 503 297 5 513 130 5 517 919 5 525 292 7 373
Proportion 
of family
population
82,1 80,0 78,2 76,8 75,6 74,4 74,0 73,6 73,1 72,6 -0,5
Average
size of
family
3,00 2,96 2,89 2,83 2,79 2,77 2,76 2,76 2,75 2,74 –0,01
1) Families of the type ”married same-sex couple with children” numbered 616 and ”registered couple with children” 257 in 2019.

Source: Families 2019, Statistics Finland

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

Director in charge: Jari Tarkoma

Publication in pdf-format (425.2 kB)

Tables

Tables in databases

Appendix tables

Figures
Quality descriptions

Updated 22.5.2020

Referencing instructions:

Official Statistics of Finland (OSF): Families [e-publication].
ISSN=1798-3231. 2019. Helsinki: Statistics Finland [referred: 3.6.2020].
Access method: http://www.stat.fi/til/perh/2019/perh_2019_2020-05-22_tie_001_en.html