The average Australian household has been classically understood as a with their extended family living separately. However, today the archetypal family (husband, wife and children) can no longer be the exact social expectation. The increase in divorce and remarriage has created households that incorporate step-parents, step-children and step-siblings. The number of unwed mothers has also risen and many children are raised in single parent households. As the stigma associated with same-sex relationships diminishes, it is becoming more common for same-sex couples to have children or for families to incorporate + relationships into their households. There is also further diversity as 49% Australians have at least one parent born overseas (2016 Census). These families may have cultural customs that are particular to their country of birth. For example, it is more common to find extended family living with the in migrant households.
While the traditional family structure is no longer a realistic social standard, the family remains fundamentally important to people throughout their life. is highly valued and Australians usually encourage their family members' to be independent and follow their personal aspirations. Children are often taught to subconsciously think of themselves as ‘special’ or ‘unique’ as they grow up. The cultural idea pervades: you are what you make of yourself and who you choose to be. People are expected to be self-reliant, self-determining and responsible for their choices.
Research shows that the extended family still plays a large role in most Australians’ lives. They add to an individual’s support network, commonly providing financial support, housing or job opportunities. The general preference for most Australian families is to have a small families with one to three children. Parents often make strategic choices about their children's education to secure a good economic future for them. Most Australian parents do not use corporal punishment but instead discipline their children by enforcing consequences for their actions – for example, withdrawing privileges for bad behaviour and rewarding good behaviour. Using violence towards one’s family members is widely considered unacceptable in Australia.
Gender does not necessarily dictate a person’s role or duty in the family. Women are considered equal to men in Australian society and enjoy the opportunity to choose their form of contribution to the household dynamic. However, due to a number of reasons, less women work full-time than men and are instead available to raise their children. They also tend to have more interrupted careers than men.
Australians are generally waiting until later in life to have a family and the average ages at which family life-events occur (e.g. marriage, children, retirement) are rising. This reflects the growing orientation of both men and women – particularly of the middle class – to want to establish a career for themselves and travel before starting a family. Women tend to be much older when they have their first child than previous generations. They typically do so between 25 and 34 years of age (the median age is 29). In vitro fertilisation (IVF) is becoming more common. People are also working much later into life with the age of pension rising. It is now common for people aged over 65 to remain in the workforce.
Marriage and Dating
Australian couples commonly meet through their social circles, workplaces or hobbies. Online dating services are popular amongst several age groups. Dates usually happen in contexts that allow for the couple to engage in enough conversation to get to know one another (for example, over a meal or drink). It is common for Australians to ‘date’ or get to know multiple people at once over a period of time without having an exclusive relationship with any of those people. If feelings develop for a particular person, they usually stop meeting new dates or seeing others. Instead they usually pursue that one person until he or she agrees to be in a committed relationship with them or indicates they are not interested. Premarital intercourse is socially acceptable in Australia and the use of contraception is encouraged (with the exception of those who are strongly religious or traditional).
In 2013, 77% of couples lived together before marriage. Unmarried cohabitation provides couples with autonomy from their parents, the ability to adjust to one another on a more intimate and immediate level (that previously occurred during early marriage) and enables both people to pursue careers and opportunities without children. Research shows that people are generally more when they live with their partner unmarried. For example, they will often organise their finances separately. The decision to cohabit prior to marriage is more common among Australians who are non-religious or have had a higher education. Nevertheless, it is the majority preference for people across Australia.
Australians remain committed and dedicated to partnership. Emphasis is placed on a couple’s intimate love for one another, rather than the social expectations of a marriage contract. However, the institution of marriage is still dominant and highly valued. It is expected that any strong couple will want to ‘take that step’. In 2017, it became legal for same-sex couples to marry, following a nationwide postal vote in favour of the legislation. The average age of (first) marriage is almost 30 for men and 28 for women. Approximately 1 in 3 Australian marriages end in divorce. Nevertheless, the divorce rate is declining. Some couples choose not to marry and remain in a de facto partnership whilst maintaining the same function and relationship as a married couple.
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