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Single parents, common law families on rise

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Single parents, common law families on rise
Photo: DPA
15:48 CEST+02:00
The German family structure is changing, with nearly a third of every family no longer living in the "classic model" and big differences in what family looks like in the former East and West, statistics agency Destatis announced on Monday.

The 2013 Microcensus showed that 70 percent of families consisted of a married couple and at least one child under the age of 18. And while the classical model still dominates, the figures show it's in decline. In 1996, 81 percent of families centred on a married couple.

Today, 20 percent of children live with single parents, up six percent from the mid-1990s. The other 10 percent are households with unmarried couples, including same-sex parents. That number has doubled since 1996.

The starker difference also showed a divide in family structures between the former East and West.

Outside the former Eastern states, the traditional structure accounts for 74 percent. In the East, only slightly more than half of families or 51 percent start with married parents. Nearly a third of all families in Berlin are in single-parent households. In Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt, 23 percent of families consist of common law partners.

The West shows a very different picture. Bremen and Hamburg came closest to East German levels at 61 and 63 percent of families started by married parents respectively. Meanwhile, only 16 percent of families in Baden-Württemberg  were single parent households.

Jürgen Dobritz from the Federal Institute for Population Research (BiB) said that the change comes from a shift in attitude toward the institution of marriage. 

"There is a decrease in the significance of marriage," he said. A 2012 BiB survey showed that more than a third of Germans between the ages of 20 and 39 think marriage is an outdated institution. More than 10 percent of young Germans plan to never have children.

In 2011, Destatis found that only about half of Germans live in a family with children.

The Microcensus is the largest annual household survey in Germany. 

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