First-Ever Data Report on Family Well-Being Around the World The World Family Map

Washington-For the first time, data are available on family well-being across high- and low-income countries around the world. The World Family Map report summarizes a large body of data on family strengths and challenges, as well as important educational outcomes for children and youth. The report explores the social, economic, familial, and cultural factors that tend to strengthen or undermine family life.

The World Family Map focuses a global spotlight on the roles that families play in promoting social, physical, economic, and psychological well-being for children, adults, and communities.Child Trends partnered with scholars at the University of Virginia and the University of Maryland, and with universities and think tanks around the world, to track central indicators of family well-being – i.e., indicators of family structure, family economic well-being, family processes, and family culture—around the globe.

Among the report’s highlights:

  • In the majority of middle- and higher-income countries, children in two-parent families have more positive educational outcomes compared to children living with one parent or neither parent, even after accounting for the socioeconomic differences of each group.
    • However, in lower-income countries, children in single-parent families often do just as well or better on a number of educational outcomes than those living with two parents.
  • Two-parent families are becoming less common in many parts of the world, especially higher income countries, as marriage rates fall around much of the globe; nevertheless, a majority of the world’s children still live in homes with two parents. In this study, children were most likely to live with two parents in Jordan, where 92 percent lived with two parents.
  • Most adults believe that working mothers can establish just as good relationships with their children as stay-at-home mothers, with those holding this view ranging from 47 percent in Jordan to 84 percent in Sweden.

“As more children worldwide are growing up in challenging circumstances, and as many governments around the world are reducing investments in families and children, it is critical to understand the strengths as well as the challenges facing families,” Laura Lippman, senior program director for education at Child Trends and co-investigator on the World Family Map project said. “When we look at families worldwide, we can identify ways that families support healthy child and youth development, as well as conditions that can undercut positive development.”

“The most striking finding from this new report is that children from two-parent families have an advantage in school in higher-income countries but not in lower-income countries,” said Brad Wilcox, co-investigator of the World Family Map Project and a professor of sociology at the University of Virginia. “This suggests that having a second parent in the picture may give children an extra practical and financial educational boost in higher-income countries, whereas a second parent—usually a father—appears less likely to be helpful in lower-income countries.”

The report is funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Focus Global, and the Social Trends Institute, and co-sponsored by the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada, the University of Asia and the Pacific, the Universidad de la Sabana, the Universidad de los Andes, Universidad de Piura, the Netherlands Youth Institute, and Seoul National University.

Child Trends is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research center that studies children at all stages of development, across all major domains, and in the important contexts of their lives. Our mission is to improve outcomes for children by providing research, data, and analysis to the people and institutions whose decisions and actions affect children.