mapLast month while we were still getting organised after the holidays, the well-known US organisation Child Trends released a very informative report on families around the world. The World Family Map is the first annual report from a project which involves a number of collaborating institutions around the world, and it is helpful in understanding some of the larger forces shaping families and the welfare of children.

As the report points out, there are dramatic demographic, cultural and economic changes affecting family life.

The percentage of children living in two-parent families is also falling… Likewise, individualism is on the ascendancy, as is equality between the sexes, while family-centered values and adherence to traditional gender roles are losing ground in many regions. The global economic slowdown is also putting major pressures on family life, yet it is precisely in these times that strong families are needed to support optimal child and youth development.

The report is “designed to paint a holistic portrait of global family life by mapping trends in family structure, family socioeconomics, family processes, and family culture in every region of the world.” It will be the first to provide internationally comparative data for low-, middle- and high-income countries on key characteristics of families.

Over the next couple of weeks we will look at each of these four aspects of the report — that is, family structure, socio-economics, processes and culture.

1. Globally, are two parent families in the majority or the minority?

    The majority.

Look at this list of regions: North America; South America; Europe; Oceania (Australia, New Zealand ; Asia; the Middle East; Sub-Saharan Africa. Then answer:

2. In which regions are children (under 18) most likely to live with two parents?

    Asia and the Middle East.

3. With one or no parents?

    The Americas, Europe, Oceania and Sub-Saharan Africa

4. With extended family (including parents and kin)?

    Asia, the Middle East, South America, Sub-Saharan Africa

5. In which regions are adults most likely to be married?

    Africa, Asia, the Middle East.

6. Least likely to be married?

    South America. (Europe, North America and Oceania fall in the middle.)

7. Which region has the highest birth rates?

    Sub-Saharan Africa (on average, each woman in Nigeria gives birth to 5.5 children.)

8. Which other regions have at least replacement level fertility (about 2.1 children per woman)?

    Middle East, Americas and Oceania

9. Cohabitation is on the increase. See if you can list the regions, from highest to lowest, according to rates of non-marital child-bearing?

    South America, Europe, North America, Oceania, Sub-Saharan Africa (where the rates vary), Asia, the Middle East

Read more at the World Family Map

Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is the former deputy editor of MercatorNet