The families that children grow up in and the social environment in which they live can have major effects on their well-being. Children's development and the opportunities and challenges they will face can be affected by family composition, mother's marital status and age, whether parents are born in the United States, the language spoken at home, and environments of abuse or neglect.
Family composition is dynamic and is associated with critical parental and economic resources. In 2011, 69 percent of children ages 0–17 lived with two parents (65 percent with 2 married parents)1, 27 percent with one parent, and 4 percent with no parents. Among children living with neither parent, more than half lived with a grandparent. Seven percent of all children ages 0–17 lived with a parent who was in a cohabiting union. A cohabiting union could involve one parent and their cohabiting partner or two cohabiting parents.
A mother's marital status when a child is born may impact the family structure2 and economic security of her children. The percentage of all births that were to unmarried women, which reflects changes in the birth rate for unmarried women relative to the birth rate for married women, more than doubled between 1980 and 2009, with the largest increases for women in their twenties. In 2010, 40.8 percent of births were to unmarried women, down from 41.0 percent in 2009.
Young maternal age can also affect the resources available to the child, just as having a child during adolescence can affect the mother's opportunities. In 2010, the adolescent birth rate3 was 17.3 births per 1,000 women ages 15–17 (109,193 births), down significantly from 19.6 births per 1,000 in 2009 (Figure 2). The rate dropped one-fifth from 2007 through 2010 (from 21.7 to 17.3 per 1,000), and dropped more than half compared with 1991 (38.6 per 1,000). Between 2009 and 2010, the adolescent birth rate declined to record lows for all race and ethnicity groups. The largest percentage decline was reported for Asian/Pacific Islander adolescents, from 6.3 to 5.1 births per 1,000. The rate for Hispanic adolescents fell from 37.3 to 32.3 per 1,000, for Black, non-Hispanic adolescents from 31.0 to 27.4 per 1,000, and for White, non-Hispanic adolescents from 11.0 to 10.0 per 1,000.
NOTE: Data for 2010 are preliminary. Race refers to mother's race. The 1977 Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Standards for Data on Race and Ethnicity were used to classify persons into one of the following four racial groups: White, Black, American Indian or Alaskan Native, or Asian or Pacific Islander. Although state reporting of birth certificate data is transitioning to comply with the 1997 OMB standard for race and ethnicity statistics, data from states reporting multiple races were bridged to the single-race categories of the 1977 OMB standards for comparability with other states and for trend analysis. Rates for 1980–1989 are not shown for Hispanics; White, non-Hispanics; or Black, non-Hispanics because information on Hispanic origin of the mother was not reported on birth certificates of most states and because population estimates by Hispanic ethnicity for the reporting states were not available. Data on race and Hispanic origin are collected and reported separately. Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race.
SOURCE: National Center for Health Statistics, National Vital Statistics System.
A growing number of children in the United States have a foreign-born parent. The percentage of children ages 0–17 living with at least one foreign-born parent rose from 15 percent in 1994 to 23 percent in 2011. Twenty-one percent of children were native-born children with at least one foreign-born parent, and 3 percent were foreign-born children with at least one foreign-born parent.
Having parents who were born outside the United States can affect the language spoken at home. In 2010, 22 percent of children ages 5–17 spoke a language other than English at home, up from 18 percent in 2000 (Figure 3). Children who have difficulty speaking English may face greater challenges progressing in school and in the labor market. The percentage of children who both spoke a language other than English at home and had difficulty speaking English (speaks less than "very well") was 5 percent, down from 5.5 percent in 2000. In 2010, 16 percent of Asian children and 15 percent of Hispanic4 children both spoke a language other than English at home and had difficulty speaking English.
NOTE: Numbers from the 1995 and 1999 Current Population Survey (CPS) may reflect changes in the survey because of newly instituted computer-assisted interviewing techniques and/or because of the change in the population controls to the 1990 Census-based estimates, with adjustments. A break is shown in the lines between 1999 and 2000 because data from 1979 to 1999 come from the CPS, while beginning in 2000 the data come from the American Community Survey (ACS). The questions were the same on the CPS and the ACS questionnaires.
Exposure to environments of abuse or neglect can affect children's development and overall well-being. Child maltreatment comprises neglect (including medical neglect), as well as overt physical, sexual, and psychological abuse. In 2010, the rate of substantiated reports of child maltreatment was 10 per 1,000 children ages 0–17. Children under age 1 experienced the highest rate of maltreatment5: in 2010, there were 21 substantiated child maltreatment reports per 1,000 children under age 1.
1 Parents can be biological, step, or adoptive.
2 Kennedy, S. and Bumpass, L. (2008). Cohabitation and children's living arrangements: New estimates from the United States. Demographic Research, 19, 663–92.
3 The birth rate for adolescents ages 15–17 includes married and unmarried teenagers.
4 In this survey, respondents were asked to choose one or more races. All race groups discussed in this paragraph refer to people who indicated only one racial identity. Hispanic children may be of any race.
5 The count of child victims is based on the number of investigations by Child Protective Services that found the child to be a victim of one or more types of maltreatment. The count of victims is, therefore, a report-based count and is a "duplicated count," since an individual child may have been maltreated more than once.