Most Australians believe a child is happiest with a mum and a dad

family_729 Photo: Getty

Seven out of 10 Australians believe a child is happiest growing up with both a mother and father, despite growing acceptance of single parents. 

The latest World Family Map, produced by the US Child Trends research organisation, found Australians were more progressive than Asian and Middle Eastern families, but not as liberal as Europeans.

While two-parent families are still the norm around the world, a quarter of children in the US, Britain and New Zealand grow up with a single parent, compared with 18 per cent of children in Australia.

A third of births in Australia are to unmarried women, while half of all births in the UK and New Zealand occur outside marriage.

''Marriage is becoming more of an option for adults, rather than a necessity for the survival of adults and children,'' the World Family Map report states, noting that in many countries living together is a precursor or alternative to marriage.

However, acceptance of single parents varies around the world, with Europeans tending to be the most tolerant, and those in Asia, the Middle East and Africa the least tolerant.

''Adults in countries with more affluence, lower levels of religiosity, or high levels of single parenthood prove to be more supportive of women having children without a … male partner,'' the report said.

Eighty per cent of Spaniards approved of a woman having a baby without being in a stable relationship with a man, as did 60 per cent of the French and Dutch. Half of American adults and 40 per cent of Australians also approved of voluntary single parenthood.

Yet most adults still believe children do best in a home with mother and father present. This belief is held by at least nine out of 10 adults in Asia and the Middle East. Seventy per cent of Australians and 63 per cent of Americans hold this view, compared with less than half of Swedes.

Around the world there is general support for working women, with most adults believing working mums could establish just as good relationships with their children as stay-at-home parents. Swedes are most likely to agree with this, while Jordanians are least likely to hold this view.

European governments spend the most on family benefits, with at least 4 per cent of gross domestic product in Britain, Sweden, Ireland and France allocated to family allowances. Less than 3 per cent of Australia's GDP and 1.2 per cent of America's GDP goes to family benefits.