Households with and without Children, by Legislative District

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Learn More About Family Structure

Measures of Family Structure on
On, measures of children's family and household structure come from the American Community Survey and Current Population Survey. Depending on the measure, data are provided as one-, two-, and/or five-year estimates for the nation, state, counties, cities, school districts, and/or legislative districts. The following indicators are available:
In addition,'s measures of youth housing situation present characteristics of where and with whom students in grades 7, 9, 11, and non-traditional programs live. These estimates come from the California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS) and are based on youth self-reports by grade level, gender, level of school connectedness,* parent education level, race/ethnicity, and sexual orientation.
*Levels of school connectedness are based on a scale created from responses to five questions about feeling safe, close to people, and a part of school, being happy at school, and about teachers treating students fairly.

State-level CHKS estimates, although derived from the Biennial State CHKS, may differ from data published in Biennial State CHKS reports due to differences in grade-level classification of students in continuation high schools.
Family Structure
Childhood Adversity and Resilience
Housing Affordability and Resources
Foster Care
Why This Topic Is Important
Child well being is influenced strongly by the family environment and the presence of caring adults (1, 2). Children can thrive in any type of family—e.g., in the care of grandparents, single parents, same-sex parents, etc.—more important than family structure are factors related to family stability and strong, secure relationships with primary caregivers (1, 2, 3, 4). Research shows that unstable home environments and parental relationships can adversely affect children's health and functioning (1, 2, 5). Financial stability is important, too, and is linked to family structure (2). For example, single parents are more likely than married or cohabitating parents to experience financial difficulty, housing instability, and food insecurity (2, 4). Financial hardship can cause family stress and hinder a family's ability to provide the environment and experiences a child needs for optimal cognitive, emotional, and physical development (2, 6).

Other factors related to children's home environments can put them at risk for negative health outcomes. For example, youth living in multi-family (overcrowded) homes, in hotels/motels, or with friends may be homeless or at risk of homelessness. Poverty and housing insecurity can impact young people's development and well-being throughout life (2, 6). Additionally, youth living in foster care or group homes are a particularly vulnerable population, facing increased risks for emotional, physical, and behavioral health problems (2).
For more information, see’s Research & Links section.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  Garner, A., et al. (2021). Preventing childhood toxic stress: Partnering with families and communities to promote relational health. Pediatrics, 148(2), e2021052582. Retrieved from:

2.  National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2019). Vibrant and healthy kids: Aligning science, practice, and policy to advance health equity. National Academies Press. Retrieved from:

3.  Quintigliano, M., et al. (2022). Adolescent development and the parent-adolescent relationship in diverse family forms created by assisted reproduction. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19(24), 16758. Retrieved from:

4.  Golombok, S., et al. (2021). Single mothers by choice: Parenting and child adjustment in middle childhood. Journal of Family Psychology, 35(2), 192-202. Retrieved from:

5.  Coe, J. L., et al. (2020). Understanding the nature of associations between family instability, unsupportive parenting, and children's externalizing symptoms. Development and Psychopathology, 32(1), 257-269. Retrieved from:

6.  American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Community Pediatrics. (2021). Poverty and child health in the United States. Pediatrics, 137(4), e20160339. Retrieved from:
How Children Are Faring
The share of California households with children ages 0-17 was 34% in 2016-2020, down from 38% a decade earlier in 2006-2010. State estimates over this period followed national trends but were consistently higher than U.S. figures. In 2016-2020, 9% of California children in households lived with unmarried couples (of the same or opposite sex), 0.5% lived with same-sex couples (married or unmarried), and 3% lived with grandparents. Across counties with data, estimates of children in cohabitating couple households ranged from 4% to 15%, children in same-sex couple households from 0.2% to 1.1%, and children in the care of grandparents from 1% to 10%.

Statewide, 64% of children in households lived with two parents in 2018, 24% lived with their mother only, 8% with their father only, and 4% with non-parent relatives. Like other measures of family structure, these estimates vary widely by region and demographic group. For example, the percentage of children living with two parents ranged from 54% (Mendocino) to 77% (Placer) across California counties with data for 2014-2018, and, at the state and national level, from fewer than 45% (African American/black) to more than 80% (Asian/Pacific Islander) among racial/ethnic groups with data for 2018-2019.

According to a survey of California youth, more than 85% of students in grades 7, 9, and 11 lived in a home with one or more parents or guardians in 2017-2019. During the same period, fewer than 1 in 15 lived in a home with more than one family, and fewer than 1 in 40 lived in the home of another relative. Students in non-traditional programs, those with low levels of school connectedness, and those whose parents did not finish high school are less likely to live in a parent's or guardian's home than their peers in other groups.
Policy Implications
Families and caregivers provide an essential safety net for children and a foundation for their growth and development. Public policy can help support and reinforce that foundation for the good of families and society at large. While children can thrive in any type of family structure, stable and nurturing family environments and relationships are critical for optimal child development (1, 2). Financial and housing security also are important, as children and youth who experience hardship or instability are at risk for adverse health outcomes over their life course (2, 3).

Family types have become increasingly diverse in recent decades, and research indicates that some families may need more support than others (2). Single-parent families, for example, are more likely to live in poverty than cohabiting- or married-parent families (2). In addition, non-parental caregivers, such as grandparents, may need information, financial and emotional support, and authority to provide for children in their care (4). Further, families headed by same-sex parents may face challenges with social stigma and discrimination (2, 5, 6).

Policy options that could support vulnerable families and increase their stability include:
  • Strengthening the financial safety net for low-income families, in tandem with other policies that reduce stress and promote stable environments for children, e.g., through adequate cash and food assistance, paid family leave, and child care supports (2, 7, 8)
  • Ensuring that evidence-based, trauma-informed family resources and supports are in place, such as skill-based parent training, home visiting, and mental health services (2, 9)
  • Advancing effective, comprehensive fatherhood programs tailored to male caregivers’ unique needs and roles in children's lives; these programs should address—beyond parenting skills, employment, and child support issues—broader social and cultural contexts of fatherhood (2)
  • Supporting improved access to family planning services and long-acting reversible contraception, along with other policies to reduce unintended pregnancies, which are associated with less stable families (2, 8)
  • Ensuring that policies and programs are in place to boost parents’ educational attainment—a key predictor of family stability and positive child outcomes—particularly among low-income parents and young mothers (2)
  • Advancing policies and strategies to ensure that foster parents and kinship caregivers (e.g., grandparents) have the full range of support needed to provide for children, meet their education and health needs, and, if possible, avoid placement in non-relative foster care (4, 10)
  • Eliminating policies that discriminate against and stigmatize LGBTQ populations and contribute to anti-gay attitudes that negatively affect same-sex parents, their children, and LGBTQ youth (5, 6, 10)
  • Supporting policies, programs, and services to ensure stable housing for vulnerable youth, including youth in the foster care or juvenile justice systems, LGBTQ youth, and those who are disconnected from school and work (10)
  • Promoting family residential stability through cross-sector and local-state collaboration to increase investments in affordable permanent housing, address restrictive zoning and planning regulations, and provide rental assistance and legal aid to families who are experiencing housing insecurity or are at risk for homelessness (7, 11)
For more information, see’s Research & Links section. Also see policy implications for's Demographics, Foster Care, and Family Economics topics.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  Garner, A., et al. (2021). Preventing childhood toxic stress: Partnering with families and communities to promote relational health. Pediatrics, 148(2), e2021052582. Retrieved from:

2.  National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2019). Vibrant and healthy kids: Aligning science, practice, and policy to advance health equity. National Academies Press. Retrieved from:

3.  American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Community Pediatrics. (2021). Poverty and child health in the United States. Pediatrics, 137(4), e20160339. Retrieved from:

4.  Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2022). Kinship care and the child welfare system. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from:

5.  Meyer, I. H. (2019). Experiences of discrimination among lesbian, gay and bisexual people in the U.S. Williams Institute. Retrieved from:

6.  Perrin, E. C., et al. (2019). Barriers and stigma experienced by gay fathers and their children. Pediatrics, 143(2), e20180683. Retrieved from:

7.  California Budget and Policy Center. (2023). The 2023-24 California state budget explained. Retrieved from:

8.  Reeves, R. V., & Pulliam, C. (2020). Middle class marriage is declining, and likely deepening inequality. Brookings Institution. Retrieved from:

9.  Bhushan, D., et al. (2020). Roadmap for resilience: The California Surgeon General's report on adverse childhood experiences, toxic stress, and health. Office of the California Surgeon General. Retrieved from:

10.  National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2019). The promise of adolescence: Realizing opportunity for all youth. National Academies Press. Retrieved from:

11.  Johnson, H., et al. (2020). California's future: Housing. Public Policy Institute of California. Retrieved from:
Websites with Related Information
Key Reports and Research
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