Single Parent and Same-Sex Couple Families

AuSSA Insights profiles the latest results from the Australian Survey of Social Attitudes and other Australian and comparative social and political surveys.

The Australian Survey of Social Attitudes 2022 included new ISSP questions from the Family and Changing Gender Roles module surveyed cross-nationally. 

How have our attitudes to single parents changed and what do Australians think about same-sex couple parenting?

Back in 2002, less than one third of Australians (31%) told the ISSP research team that a single parent can bring up a child as well as a married couple. In 2022, some two decades on, those views have changed considerably. The question asks about whether a single mother or a single father ‘can bring up’ their ‘child as well as a married couple’.

Some 59% agreed with the proposition for single mothers and 56% agreed for single fathers. There are, nonetheless, large gender differences in attitudes—men are less likely to agree with the statement about single parent families (50%) than women 67% (Figure 1).  A similar gender difference emerges in attitudes to male single parent families. Younger respondents aged between 18 and 34 years express higher levels of agreement (71%) than older respondents (47%). For single fathers, overall affirmation is slightly lower, but the pattern of greater support from women and younger respondents is similar to the patterns for single mothers (Figure 2).

Australia legislated for same-sex marriage in 2017 following a national government-sponsored postal survey that resulted in a 61.6% Yes vote. At the same time, there has been greater recognition of the rights of LGBTIQ+ couples with children both in society and law.

AuSSA 2022 finds similar affirmation of same-sex couple family arrangements: 58% agreed with the statement ‘a same-sex (male) couple can bring up a child as well as a male-female couple.’ Support was slightly higher for female couples (61%). Attitudes to same-sex couple families were more polarised by gender than attitudes for single families. Around half of surveyed men agreed with the respective statements while around 7 in 10 women agreed.

Older respondents expressed higher disagreement with the propositions about same-sex families (38 and 36% respectively) than they did for single parent families headed by a female (32%) but not for male headed single families (40%). On the other hand, younger respondents expressed higher agreement with same-sex families than they did for the corresponding statement on single parents (77% for same-sex male couples and 80% for same-sex female couples).

Shaun Wilson for the Australian Survey of Social Attitudes

About AuSSA

The AUSSA sample was derived from the electoral roll and has a total sample of 924 respondents. Data was weighted by Census 2021 age, gender, and education characteristics as well as 2022 vote recall to provide a representative sample of the Australian voting public. Totals differ from 100 due to rounding. 


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