Local News

The disappearing nuclear family Census: Two-parent families are fragmenting too

SEBRING - Andrea Mills grew up in a multi-generational family.

"And the advantages are plentiful: grandma and grampa were always there to babysit. My cousin was as close as a sister to me," she wrote on Highlands Today's Facebook page.

A Walton's Mountain family wasn't unusual when the 20th century began: Grandpa and Grandma and Ma and Pa and John Boy and Mary Ellen and Jim Bob and four other brothers and sisters, and even matronly cousin Rose Burton, all in the same big house.

But the 21st century American family keeps shrinking: between 1970 and 2013, the share of married couples with children decreased by half - 40 to 19 percent.

These days, the U.S. Census Bureau reports, 24 percent of American parents living with children under 18 aren't married. Another 16 percent have no partner at home; 8 percent cohabit with a partner.

Highlands County is fragmented too. The 2010 Census reported that of the 98,796 people living in 42,604 households, just 22,127 counted a husband and wife living together, and only 4,932 had children under 18 years.

Among American parents living with an unmarried partner, 66 percent share a biological child with their partner, according to the Census report, America's Families and Living Arrangements: 2013. The survey was conducted in February, March and April from a nationwide sample of about 100,000 addresses.

Living arrangements are different for American men than women: 86 percent of fathers live with their children and have a spouse present. Only 67 percent of moms with kids have a spouse in the house.

"Mothers are more likely than fathers to be raising a child without a partner present, and fathers are less likely to live with their children," said Jamie Lewis, a demographer with the Census Bureau's Fertility and Family Statistics Branch. In 2013, 36.6 million mothers and 28.7 million fathers resided with children under 18. This includes both married and unmarried parents.

The proportion of one-person American households increased by 10 percent between 1970 and 2013, from 17 percent to 27 percent. At the same time, the average number of people per household declined from 3.1 to 2.5. During the same period, the average number of children per family decreased from 1.3 to 0.9.

The average Highlands household was 2.28, where 1,701 male householders had no wife present; 9.9 percent - 4,199 - females had no husband present. About half of those households did have children, though.

These days, children who live with grandparents are unlikely to also have a mother or father in the home. Of the 73.9 million children in the United States in 2013, approximately 7.1 million - 10 percent - lived with a grandparent; 80 percent had a parent present.

"Growing up in Upstate New York," Tonya Marshall, now from Avon Park, Facebooked on Highlands Today's page, "we lived in a house with my grandparents, my mom, my sis & I, and two cousins. As a child, it was heaven. Just seemed the normal way of living."

Other U.S. highlights:

Sixty-six percent of households in 2013 were family households, compared with 81 percent in 1970. Family households include two or more people living under the same roof related by blood, marriage or adoption.

Seven percent of American households are maintained by a cohabiting couple; 37 percent contain children under 18.

"Today, I live in a one-generation family, have been married for almost 20 years to my daughter's father. I believe this is how things should be," Mills said.