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There were 1,218,370 families in the State on Census Night, an increase of 3.3 per cent since 2011, and a rise of 51 per cent since 1996.

For census purposes, a family is defined as a couple with or without children, or a one parent family with one or more children.

Figure 2.1 illustrates how the number of families has grown over the period 1996 to 2016 while the average number of children per family fell markedly between 1996 and 2006 before levelling off in 2011 and 2016. The average number of children per family remained at 1.38 in 2011 and 2016.

Number of familiesAverage number of children

Families and children

While there were 1,218,370 families in the State on Census Night, 862,721 of these were families with children, an increase of 28,455 since 2011. The number of married couples with children increased by 1.7 per cent to 568,317 while the number of cohabiting couples with children increased by 25.4 per cent to 75,587. One parent families with children increased by 1.5 per cent to 189,112 in the case of mothers and 2.3 per cent to 29,705 in the case of fathers.

Children in families of cohabiting couples had a younger profile with 76.6 per cent of this family type having all children under the age of 15. This compares with just 47 per cent of married couples having all children under the age of 15. Children in one parent families were likely to have an older age profile, in particular for one parent fathers where in 73.1 per cent of families, all children were aged 15 years or over.

Children both under and over 15 yearsAll children aged 15 years and overAll children under 15 years
All family units127846328684406191
Married couple with children92669208299267349
Cohabiting couple with children9100861557872
One parent mother with children240049006675042
One parent father with children2073217045928

Interactive Table: StatBank Link EY016

It's a Fact

  • 62,192 - The number of families with 4 or more children
  • 4,352 - The number of families with 6 or more children

Figure 2.3 charts the differences between families in terms of the number of children in their families.

Cohabiting couples were more likely to have just one child with 45 per cent of cohabiting couples falling into this category. Among married couples with children, one-child families accounted for less than one third of the total.

Overall, cohabiting couples with children had an average of 1.83 children, while the figure for married couples was 2.09 children.

Number of childrenMarried couple with childrenCohabiting couple with childrenOne parent mother with childrenOne parent father with children
4 or more4842844528519793

Families in rental accommodation

The number of married couples with children in rental accommodation increased by 20.1 per cent to 101,741 families between 2011 and 2016, while the numbers in accommodation owned with or without a mortgage fell by 1.6 per cent to 466,576.

The number of cohabiting couples with children in rental accommodation increased by 37.6 per cent to 39,981 families while those in other types of accommodation increased by 14.1 per cent to 35,606. The number of one parent female families in rental accommodation dropped to 87,086, down 2,281 (-2.6%) from 2011, while those in other types of accommodation increased and stood at 102,026, up 5,109 (+5.3%) between 2011 and 2016.

Interactive table: StatBank Link E4070

Family unit20112016
Married couple without children3584838203
Cohabiting couple without children4426944501
Married couple with children84682101741
Cohabiting couple with children2905839981
One parent mother with children8936787086
One parent father with children82688674

Families by social class

The social class structure of couples varied according to whether they were married or cohabiting, and whether or not they had children as can be seen in Figure 2.5.

For married couples, those with children tended to belong to the higher social classes. 57 per cent of these families belonged to the higher classes (1 to 3), compared with 50.9 per cent of married couples without children.

The opposite pattern emerges for cohabiting couples. Those without children are much more likely to belong to social classes 1 to 3 (66.1%), while 44.8 per cent of cohabiting couples with children belong to these groups.

All others (incl. unknown)Skilled manual, Semi-skilled and UnskilledProfessional, Managerial/technical and Non-manual
Married without children3961197412141911
Married with children45232199081324004
Cohabiting without children51402083650739
Cohabiting with children106253109233870

Interactive Table: StatBank Link E4071

One parent families

The number of one parent families stood at 218,817 in 2016 of which 189,112 were mothers and 29,705 were fathers. The majority, 125,840, had just one child.

When examined by age and marital status strong differences appear between the sexes. One parent fathers were on average considerably older than their female counterparts with 68 per cent aged 50 years or over compared with just 38.3 per cent of women.

Single women made up 44.5 per cent of one parent mothers, whereas among one parent fathers widowhood dominated, accounting for 39.4 per cent of the total. Just over 1 in 5 one parent mothers were widowed, while a further 58,127 were either separated or divorced, accounting for 30.7 per cent of the group.

Most one parent families were living in one-family households. Of the 20,278 one parent families in multi-family households 18,717 were one parent mothers with the majority, 75.5 per cent (14,134) having just one child.

One parent motherOne parent father

Interactive Table: StatBank Link E4069

It's a Fact

  • 56% - The percentage of one parent/one-family households who had one child
  • 76% - The percentage of one parent/multi-family households who had one child

One parent families less likely to be at work

Figure 2.7 shows the distribution of one parent families by principal economic status alongside the equivalent breakdown for heads of two-parent families.

Only 47.8 per cent of single parents were at work, compared with 70.2 per cent for heads of two-parent families. 13.1 per cent of one parent families were unemployed. For couples, this figure stood at 6.9 per cent.

Those looking after the home or family were also prevalent among one parent families, accounting for 17.7 per cent, although this was unevenly spread between men and women. Only 4 per cent of one parent fathers were homemakers, compared with 19.8 per cent of one parent mothers.

Retirees made up 13.1 per cent of one parent families (28% of one parent fathers and 10.8% of one parent mothers).

OtherRetiredHomemakerUnemployedAt work
Lone parents with children18014282543806628131102934
Couples with children537127052716430687105886982

Three in five adults living with their parents were men

There were 458,874 adults aged 18 and over living with a parent at the time of the census in April 2016, an increase of 19,396, or 4.4 per cent, on 2011. Adult males accounted for 58.6 per cent of this group, and stood at 268,944, a rise of 8,015 on 2011. The number of adult women rose by 11,381 to 189,930 over the same period. The numbers fall dramatically with age. While there were 23,571 persons at age 25 living at home this had fallen to 11,299 by age 30. 

On an urban rural divide 41.2 per cent of this group were in rural areas, compared with 37.3 per cent of the general population. Among those aged 30-49 there were more than twice as many men as women still living with a parent (67,594 compared with 32,037), even in urban areas (37,480 men as against 17,813 women).

In terms of principal economic status 215,088 were at work while 66,516 were unemployed. A further 152,269 were students. When examined separately for men and women, men were more likely to be at work (47.5%) than women (45.9%) or be unemployed (17.8% compared with 9.9% of women).

On the other hand, 39% of adult women living with a parent were students compared with only 29% of men.

For long labels below use
to display on multiple lines
At work127818
For long labels below use
to display on multiple lines
At work87270

Interactive Table: StatBank Link E4074

Workers still living at home

The number of adults, aged 18 years and over, who were working and still living at home increased by 19 per cent between 2011 and 2016, increasing from 180,703 to 215,088.

The data is presented by single year of age in Figure 2.9. Those aged 30 to 34 saw a 26 per cent increase rising from 23,835 to 30,137 over the five years.


Interactive Table: StatBank Link E4097

It's a Fact

  • 458,874 - The number of adult children still living with a parent in April 2016
  • 215,088 - The number of working adult children living with a parent
  • 66,516 - The number of unemployed adult children living with a parent

Same sex couples

There were 6,034 same sex couples in Census 2016 an increase of just under 50 per cent since 2011, of which 57 per cent (3,442 couples) were male and 43 per cent (2,592 couples) were female. The biggest increases in persons in same sex couples by age were in the older age groups. The number of persons aged 50 or over in same sex couples has more than doubled from 1,140 to 2,307, while those aged 25 to 49 increased by 46 per cent to 9,121. However there was a decrease in persons age cohort 15-24 in same sex couples down from 698 in 2011 to 640 in 2016. This may be a reflection of the general trend of a decline in the number of young adults.

Interactive Table: StatBank Link E4093

Age group20162011
65 years and over367133
60 - 64 years358150
55 - 59 years611309
50 - 54 years971548
45 - 49 years1300884
40 - 44 years17311058
35 - 39 years21651372
30 - 34 years22641603
25 - 29 years16611329
20 - 24 years615645
15 - 19 years2553

Nearly 80% of same sex couples (4,787) were cohabiting without children, while 656 same sex couples (10.9%) were married without children. There were 591 (9.8%) same sex couples with children of which 182 were married.

Table 2.1 Same sex couples by family type and sex, 2011 and 2016

Over 4 out of 5 same sex couples were living in urban areas with nearly half living in Dublin City and suburbs. However only 41.4 per cent of women living in same sex couples were based in Dublin City and suburbs compared to 55.6 per cent of men. Women in same sex couples were more likely to be living in large towns and rural areas (46.5%) compared to men (34.1%).

Table 2.2 Same sex couples by sex and area type, 2016
Dublin City and suburbs2,9861,9141,072
Other Cities (incl. suburbs)669354315
Towns over 10,000854439415
Towns 5,000-9,999278135143
Towns 1,500-4,999256112144
Aggregate rural area991488503

It's a Fact

  • 57% - The percentage of same sex couples who were male
  • 84% - The percentage of same sex couples who lived in urban areas