Number of lone parents doubles but not clear cut

THE number of lone parents has doubled over the past two decades, but the statistics may not be as straightforward as it seems, according to the ESRI report.

According to the 2006 Census, there were just over 98,333 lone-parent families with children under 15 years of age. This compares with the figure of 36,353 for Census 1986, but the report gives three reasons why trends regarding lone parenthood are “not entirely clear”.

It states there is a possibility that lone parenthood was undercounted by Censuses in the past because of the failure to identify lone parents living within larger family units, and that the number of all family units has increased considerably.

“The different age profiles of one-parent and two-parent families means that the increase in the size of the female cohort which occurred since 1986 will have translated more quickly into the count of one-parent families than that of two-parent families,” it says.

In the 15 to 59 age group there are just under 114,000 lone parents, of which just under 10,200 are male. In addition, 35% of lone parents aged 15 to 59 years have experienced a broken marriage and 8% are widowed, leaving 57% of lone parents with a child aged under 20 years who have never married.

By age 24, more than 9% of women have a child yet have never been married and are not cohabiting. This proportion is fairly constant up to the age of 28. There are few young lone fathers and the bulk of never-married lone fathers are over 30 years of age.

Lone parenthood is more likely among lower socioeconomic groups and low education greatly increases the chances of becoming a lone mother. One quarter of women who have only lower second-level qualifications are never married lone mothers by their mid-20s. This compares with just 3% of graduates.

Irish women are much more likely to be lone mothers than women of non-Irish nationality, with the exception of British nationals.


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