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- Definition: Estimated percentage of children under age 18 living with grandparents who provide primary care for one or more grandchildren in the household, by legislative district.
- Data Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey (Jan. 2015).
- Footnote: These estimates are based on a survey of the population and are subject to both sampling and nonsampling error.
- Measures of Family Structure on Kidsdata.org
On kidsdata.org, measures of family structure include: households with and without children under age 18; family structure for children, overall, and by race/ethnicity; and children in the care of grandparents. These data are estimates based on the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS). Data are available for:
Family structure estimates are for children living in households and exclude those in group quarters (e.g., student dormitories). A "female-headed household” is a household maintained by a female with related children present. The female head of household typically is the children’s mother but also may be their grandmother, aunt, older sibling, or another relative. The definition of "male-headed household" is comparable. The same-sex couple category combines both unmarried and married partners due to small sample sizes. "Other households” include youth living alone or with nonrelatives.
- Cities, school districts, and counties with 65,000+ residents, as single-year estimates;
- Cities, school districts, and counties with 20,000+ residents, as 3-year estimates;
- Cities, school districts, and counties with 10,000+ residents, as 5-year estimates (however, for family structure by race/ethnicity, data are provided as 5-year estimates for regions of 50,000+ residents); and
- Legislative districts, as 5-year estimates.
- Family Structure
- Households with and without Children, by City, School District and County (65,000 Residents or More)
- Family Structure for Children in Households, by City, School District and County (65,000 Residents or More)
- Children in the Care of Grandparents, by City, School District and County (65,000 Residents or More)
- Births to Unmarried Women (California & U.S. Only)
- Child Population
- Children in Rural and Urban Areas (California & U.S. Only)
- Public School Enrollment
- Total Population
- Family Income and Poverty
- Self-Sufficiency Standard
- Children in Poverty - Supplemental Poverty Measure (State & U.S. Only)
- Children in Poverty (Regions of 65,000 Residents or More)
- Children in Poverty (Regions of 20,000 Residents or More)
- Children in Poverty (Regions of 10,000 Residents or More)
- Children Living Above and Below the Poverty Level (Regions of 65,000 Residents or More), by Income Level
- Children Living Above and Below the Poverty Level (Regions of 20,000 Residents or More), by Income Level
- Children Living Above and Below the Poverty Level (Regions of 10,000 Residents or More), by Income Level
- Children Living in Areas of Concentrated Poverty
- Median Family Income, by Family Type (Regions of 65,000 Residents or More)
- Children Living in Low-Income Working Families, by City, School District and County (65,000 Residents or More)
- CalWORKs Recipients
- Food Security
- English Learners
- Children Living in Linguistically Isolated Households, by City, School District and County (65,000 Residents or More)
- Children Living with One or More Foreign-Born Parent (Regions of 65,000 Residents or More)
- Children Living with One or More Foreign-Born Parent (Regions of 20,000 Residents or More)
- Children Living with One or More Foreign-Born Parent (Regions of 10,000 Residents or More)
- Foreign-Born Population, by Age Group (Regions of 65,000 Residents or More)
- Teen Births
- Why This Topic Is Important
Child well being is influenced by the family environment and the presence of caring, stable adults. Family structure and the nature of the family relationships, in particular, are important factors in child development (1, 2). For example, single-parent families are more likely than two-parent families to have lower incomes and experience financial hardship (3). Financial hardship can affect families’ ability to provide the environment and experiences a child needs for optimal cognitive, emotional, and physical development (4). In addition to adequate family income, positive child development is influenced by factors such as parental affection, responsiveness, and consistency, as well as high quality relationships between parents or significant adults (2). These factors are more critical than the family structure itself (3).
Over the past 30 years, the percentage of children living in households with two married parents has declined nationwide, while the percentage in families headed by a single parent or grandparents has increased (3, 5). Though it is not clear if the percentage of children living with same-sex partners has increased in recent decades (due to data limitations), research shows that children in these families are as well adjusted as children with heterosexual parents (2). Studies indicate that child development is not influenced by the gender or sexual orientation of parents (2).For more information about family structure see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section.
Sources for this narrative:
1. Child Trends Databank. (2015). Family structure. Retrieved from: http://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=family-structure
2. Lamb, M. E. (2012). Mothers, fathers, families, and circumstances: Factors affecting children’s adjustment. Applied Developmental Science, 16(2), 98-111. Retrieved from: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10888691.2012.667344#.VCBhlvldV8E
3. Coontz, S. (Ed.). (2015). Moynihan+50: Family structure still not the problem. Council on Contemporary Families. Retrieved from: https://contemporaryfamilies.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/2015_Symposium_Family_Structure.pdf
4. Redd, Z., et al. (2011). Two generations in poverty: Status and trends among parents and children in the United States, 2000-2010 (Research Brief No. 2011-25). Child Trends. Retrieved from: http://www.childtrends.org/?publications=two-generations-in-poverty-status-and-trends-among-parents-and-children-in-the-united-states-2000-2010-2
5. U.S. Census Bureau. (n.d.). Table CH-7. Grandchildren under age 18 living in the home of their grandparents: 1970 to present. Retrieved from: http://www.census.gov/hhes/families/data/children.html
- How Children Are Faring
In 2013, more than one-third of California households (36%) included children, similar to previous years. About two-thirds (67%) of California children lived in households headed by married couples of the opposite sex in 2013; the remaining percentage lived in households headed by single women (19%), single men (4%), unmarried couples of the opposite sex (9%), and married or unmarried same-sex couples (0.2%). Family structure varies by race/ethnicity. In 2009-13, an estimated 11% of Asian/Pacific Islander children in California lived in households headed by single women, while the same was true for about 50% of African American children. In 2013, an estimated 3.5% of California’s children lived in the care of grandparents, similar to previous years, but percentages vary widely by county.
- Policy Implications
Family provides the essential safety net for children, and public policy can help support and reinforce that safety net for the good of the family, and for society at large. In California, about two-thirds of households with children are headed by married couples, while 23% of children live in households headed by a single parent (1). Children can thrive in any type of family structure. However, research shows that single-parent households tend to be less financially secure or stable than those with married parents (2, 3).
A small percentage of children are raised by other caregivers, such as grandparents, who often need information, financial and emotional support, and authority to nurture, feed, house, and educate the children in their care (4). Some children are raised in households headed by same-sex couples; while research shows that these children do as well as children of heterosexual couples, they can face discrimination (5, 6).
According to research and subject experts, policy options that could promote child well being in homes with a single parent, kinship caregiver, or same-sex parents include:
For more policy ideas and links to research and websites with related information, see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section.
- Strengthening the social and financial safety net for single custodial parents through policies that support balancing work and caring for children, provide adequate cash assistance for low-income families in need, and effectively enforce child support obligations (2, 3, 8)
- Ensuring that kinship caregivers (such as grandparents) have the full range of support needed to provide for children in their care, enroll them in school, ensure that they receive regular medical care, and avoid placement in non-relative foster care (4)
- Eliminating legislation that discriminates against gay and lesbian populations, as anti-gay legislation and attitudes can negatively affect the mental health of gay and lesbian parents, which can affect the emotional and behavioral health of their children (6, 9)
- Developing and implementing responsible fatherhood programs that are comprehensive and address child support collection issues, paternal employment, relationship skills, parenting skills, and domestic violence concerns (2, 3, 7)
Sources for this narrative:
1. As cited on kidsdata.org, Family structure for children in households. (2015). U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey. Retrieved from: http://factfinder2.census.gov/
2. Waldfogel, J., et al. (2010). Fragile families and child wellbeing. The Future of Children, 20(2), 87-112. Retrieved from: http://www.princeton.edu/futureofchildren/publications/journals/article/index.xml?journalid=73&articleid=532
3. McLanahan, S., et al. (2010). Strengthening fragile families (Policy Brief). The Future of Children. Retrieved from: http://www.brookings.edu/research/reports/2010/10/27-fragile-families-foc
4. Sakai, C., et al. (2011). Health outcomes and family services in kinship care: Analysis of a national sample of children in the child welfare system. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 165(2), 159-165. Retrieved from: http://archpedi.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=384260
5. Lamb, M. E. (2012). Mothers, fathers, families, and circumstances: Factors affecting children’s adjustment. Applied Developmental Science, 16(2), 98-111. Retrieved from: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10888691.2012.667344#.VCBhlvldV8E
6. Pennings, G. (2011). Evaluating the welfare of the child in same-sex families. Human Reproduction, 26(7), 1609-1615. Retrieved from: http://humrep.oxfordjournals.org/content/26/7/1609.short
7. Knox, V., et al. (2010). Policies that strengthen fatherhood and family relationships: What do we know and what do we need to know? MDRC. Retrieved from: http://www.mdrc.org/publication/policies-strengthen-fatherhood-and-family-relationships
8. Cancian, M., et al. (2010). Promising antipoverty strategies for families. Urban Institute. Retrieved from: http://www.urban.org/publications/412073.html
9. Goldberg, A. E., & Smith, J. Z. (2011). Stigma, social context, and mental health: Lesbian and gay couples across the transition to adoptive parenthood. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 58(1), 139-150. Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3081377/
- Websites with Related Information
- Adoption USA: Family Structure, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
- California Kinship, Kinship Support Services Program (KSSP)
- Casey Family Programs
- Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP)
- Child Trends: Marriage and Cohabitation
- COLAGE, People with a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, or Queer Parent
- Council on Contemporary Families
- Journalism Center on Children and Families
- The Family Acceptance Project, San Francisco State University
- The Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, Center for Research on Child Wellbeing
- U.S. Census Bureau: Families and Living Arrangements
- Williams Institute
- Key Reports
- "We Ain't Crazy! Just Coping With a Crazy System" Pathways into the Black Population for Eliminating Mental Health Disparities, 5/2012, California Department of Mental Health, California Reducing Disparities Project
- Broken Immigration Policy: Broken Families, 4/2013, Urban Institute, Enchautegui, M. E.
- Demographics of Married and Unmarried Same-sex Couples: Analyses of the 2013 American Community Survey, 3/2015, Williams Institute, Gates, G. J.
- Family Diversity is the New Normal for America’s Children, 9/2014, Council on Contemporary Families, Cohen, P.
- Family Structure and Children’s Health in the United States: Findings from the National Health Interview Survey, 2001-2007, 12/2010, Vital and Health Statistics, National Center for Health Statistics, Blackwell, D. L.
- Fragile Families, 2010, The Future of Children, 20(2)
- Millennial Childbearing and the Recession, 4/2015, Urban Institute, Astone, N. M., et al.
- Moynihan 50: Family Structure Still Not The Problem, 3/2015, Council on Contemporary Families, Coontz, S. (Ed.)
- New Patterns of Poverty in the Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Community, 6/2013, Williams Institute, Badgett, M. V. L., et al.
- Research Report on LGB-Parent Families, 7/2014, Williams Institute, Goldberg, A. E., et al.
- The Role of the Family and Family-Centered Programs and Policies, 2015, The Future of Children, Berger, L. M. & Font, S. A.
- Work and Family, 2011, The Future of Children, 21(2)
- County/Regional Reports
- 2014 Solano Children's Report Card, Children's Network of Solano County
- 2014 Youth Wellbeing Report Card, Santa Monica Cradle to Career
- 2015 Kern County Report Card, 2015, Kern County Network for Children
- Children's Report Card, 2013, Sacramento County Children's Coalition
- Fresno Community Scorecard, Fresno Business Council & Valley PBS
- More Data Sources For Family Structure
- California Health Interview Survey, UCLA Center for Health Policy Research
- Childstats.gov, Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics
- Families and Living Arrangements: Living Arrangements of Children, U.S. Census Bureau
- The Youngest Americans: A Statistical Portrait of Infants and Toddlers in the United States, 11/2013, Child Trends, Murphey, D., et al.