Children living in “complex” households

Content type
Commissioned report

October 2016

Commissioning Body

Growing Up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children

Key findings

“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.

Read the LSAC Annual Statistical Report 2015: Chapter 3 - Diversity, complexity and change in children's households