National Records of Scotland

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Married/Cohabitant Couple Households Without Children

Married/Cohabitant Couple Households Without Children

Census Results 1981-2001
  • In all the countries of Great Britain, there was a rise between 1981 and 1991 in the percentage of all households which come into this category followed by a sharp fall between 1991 and 2001.

  • The fall between 1991 and 2001 was greater in England and Wales than in Scotland.

  • In Ireland there has been an increase from 11% of all households in 1981 to 16% in 2001.

In Scotland, couple households with no children, as a proportion of all households, rose from 23% in 1981 to 25% in 1991, before falling to 17% in 2001. The proportion also fell significantly in England, Wales and Northern Ireland over the last 10 years (Figure 10) (Adobe Acrobat Portable Document Format) (PDF 11 Kb)[footnote 1]), but rose in Ireland. Although Ireland experienced an increase in the proportion of adult-only couple households, it still had a smaller proportion of its total households in this category in 2001 than the countries of Great Britain. 

Suggested reasons for the observed trends in married/cohabiting couple households without children

The trends witnessed in married/cohabiting couples without children can be attributed to the reduction in the total fertility rate observed during the period 1981-2001 as illustrated in Table 1.

Table 1    Total Fertility Rates 1981-2001


1981 TRF   

2001 TFR

Difference in TFR   







Rep of Ireland





North Ireland















[Source: Office for National Statistics (ONS) (2004) & Council of Europe (2001). The Total Fertility Rate (TFR) is the mean number of children that would be born alive to a woman during her lifetime if she were to pass through her childbearing years conforming to the fertility rates by age of a given year.]

Scotland has the lowest TFR in the UK, though Northern Ireland has seen the largest fall between 1981 and 2001. This could be a factor in the trends seen in Figure 10 (PDF 11 Kb)[footnote 1]. The factors behind the increased proportion of this household type in Ireland have again been attributed to the decreasing fertility rate associated with postponement of child bearing and lack of childbearing and the legalisation and increased availability of contraception (Kennedy & McCormack, 1997).

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1. 1981 Northen Ireland household composition data was inconsistent with the rest of the UK and Ireland and so is not included in Figure 10 (PDF 11 Kb)

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