Family dynamics are changing worldwide, as households become smaller and family units grow closer emotionally.

The following analysis comes from The Global Family, a study conducted under the Nickelodeon Kids and Family GPS umbrella, an ongoing research effort in the U.S. and internationally with multiple local, regional and international research projects feeding into the global expertise on the changing face and role of the family. Here are some key findings:

Households are shrinking in size: while family sizes vary by country, they are overall getting smaller.

  • Two key reasons for the trend toward smaller households
  • Birth rates around the world are falling
  • Single parent households are on the rise

Birth rates continue to fall in some countries, while others have seen signs of growth over the last 5 to 10 years.

  • In the 80s and 90s, most countries saw birth rate declines
  • The declines continue in some countries (parts of Latin America and Europe, East Asia, and South Africa), while birth rates have steadied in Italy, Japan, and the U.S.
  • Birth rates are rising again in Australia, Canada, Russia, Poland, Sweden, and the U.K.
  • Immigration (and immigrant families’ tendency to have more children) is the source of the increase in many of these countries

The number of single parent households has increased steeply over the last 10 to 15 years.

  • Single parent households have risen by more than 50% in some countries – including cultures where it used to go against the norm
  • The U.S. has the highest overall rate (29% of household); Japan has the lowest (10%)
  • Rising levels of divorce and children born outside of marriage are the main sources of the increase

Family structures are becoming more fluid, giving rise to the “patchwork family.”

  • The “patchwork family” -a term made popular in Germany- has new family members stitched in along the way
  • Despite these changes, relationships within family units are increasingly tight-knit, with more open communication than ever

Families are becoming closer, and parents are aware that great change has happened over the last generation.

  • Two-thirds of parents feel closer to their kids than their parents were to them
  • 64% believe there is less of a generation gap
  • 56% consider their child one of their best friends
  • Families feel closest when they are doing things together outside the home (vacations, day trips, eating in restaurants)
  • Playing together as a family is also a priority for parents and kids

Dads are more hands-on with kids … but Moms are still closest to them.

  • Over 9 out of 10 dads take time to talk to kids about their day
  • Two-thirds of fathers help kids with their homework
  • Dads in the U.S. spend over twice as much time caring for kids as they did in 1975
  • However, Mom is still the go-to parent and the one that both daughters and sons feel closest to – likely because in most cultures more fathers are breadwinners who have less time to spend at home

Within the family web, kids feel closest to Mom … followed by Dad, siblings, and the family pet.

  • 92% of kids feel close to Mom, while 82% feel close to Dad, 75% to siblings, and 74% to the family pet
  • Kids feel closer to Grandma than Grandpa, and closer to step-dads than to step-moms

For Moms, children are at the center of their family webs. They feel closer to their kids than to their husbands/partners.

  • 94% of moms feel close to their kids and 90% feel close to their spouses
  • Moms’ mothers are also important (78%) – and they feel slightly closer to their family pet (70%) than to their fathers (68%) and siblings (60%)
  • In-laws rank last (34-36%)

Dads are almost equally likely to feel close to their child as to their spouse.

  • 91% of dads feel close to their kids and 90% feel close to their spouse
  • They’re closer to their mothers (78%) than to their fathers (72%)
  • Siblings and the family pet are on equal footing (57%)
  • In-laws rank last (40%) – but they’re closer to them than moms

There is not only a growing bond among parents and children – grandparents are also closer to kids.

  • Grandparents provide practical support to kids – like babysitting, going to events with them, or buying things their parents won’t – as well as emotional support, in the form of love and friendship.

Carlos Garcia is Senior Director, Nickelodeon Research & Insights for Viacom International Media Networks and can be reached by twitter @CGarciaConnect