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Families and Children Study

Family outside house


The Families and Children study is about the lives of families with children in Britain.

We looked into topics such as:

  • household characteristics,
  • health and wellbeing,
  • employment activity,
  • receipt of benefits and tax credits,
  • use of childcare,
  • housing and material deprivation,
  • and, from 2006 to 2008, attitudes to work and childcare.


Lone parents are common but more likely to have low income

  • A quarter of families with children are lone parent families.
  • Lone parent families are more than three times as likely to live in social housing in comparison to families that include couples.
  • Lone parent families are nearly seven times as likely to have a total family income in the lowest fifth of all families.

Lone mothers are far less likely to work than those in a couple

  • Nearly half (41%) of lone mothers don’t work compared to 26% of mothers in a couple.
  • The benefits families are most likely to receive other than Child Benefit is Council Tax Benefit, Housing Benefit or Income Support.
  • Nearly all lone parents receive a benefit or tax credit.

Mothers in families where no one works are more likely to say their health is 'not good'

  • One in ten mothers describe their health over the last 12 months as 'not good'
  • Mothers who live in families where no one works are more likely to describe their health as 'not good' than mothers who live in families where at least one parent works.

Physical activity becomes less common for children as they get older

  • Just over half of children, around six in ten, do three or more hours of physical activity a week.
  • Very few children, only 5 per cent, do nothing.
  • Physical activity is more common in boys than girls and becomes less common for both boys and girls with age.

Computer access and usage

  • Nearly all children aged 11 to 15 reported that their family has a computer at home.
  • Internet or email usage is strongly related to parental employment status and income.
  • Children from working and higher income families are more likely to have used the internet or email in the previous week.


We did face-to-face interviews with the main participant, usually the female mother figure and where applicable, we also conducted a short interview with partners. Later on in the study, we asked children aged 11-15 to fill in a self-completion questionnaire. From 1999 to 2008, we went back to the same families every year and added some new families each year. Approximately 8,000 families participated in the study at each wave.

Read 2008 report