General Methods

This section of the 2015 World Family Map report provides information on 16 indicators of family well-being in four areas—family structure, family socioeconomics, family process, and family culture—across 49 countries that are home to a majority of the world’s population.

The indicators for the World Family Map 2015 demonstrate the diversity of families and nations in which children are being raised. Every region of the world is home to distinct patterns of family structure, socioeconomics, family process, and culture, and there is often variation within regions. Major changes in families are taking place around the world. Marriage is becoming less common almost everywhere, while cohabitation is becoming more common in select regions. The world has made progress toward the Millennium Development Goal for reducing malnutrition; however, families continue to face stressors such as extreme poverty and parental unemployment. Parents and extended family members have limited control over some of these problems, but one avenue through which they can directly facilitate strong family relationships and positive child outcomes is parent-child communication, which takes daily efforts and participation.

This report is updated annually with new data, as available. With the exception of one indicator in the family process section, and one indicator in the family culture section, here we present the same indicators—updated when possible—as we did in the 2014 report.

Selecting indicators: Along with advisors representing every region of the world, the study team selected indicators using a research-based conceptual framework of family strengths. We generated indicators in the following four domains: family structure, family socioeconomics, family process, and family culture. Indicators were chosen for each domain based on their importance to family and child well-being and on data availability, as well as a concern for regional representation and balance in the number of indicators across domains.

Selecting countries: When designing this report, it was necessary to select a set of countries for which comparisons could be made. While it was not possible to include all of the approximately 200 countries in the world, countries were selected to ensure regional representation of high-, middle-, and low-income countries. Data availability for the desired time period was also considered. These factors resulted in focusing on 49 countries—an increase from 45 countries in the original 2013 report—that account for over 75 percent of the world’s population.1 Figure 1 displays the countries by region. As more data become available on key indicators of family well-being, the World Family Map will be able to include more countries.


Data sources: Numerous data sources track indicators of family well-being. The sources presented here, which are listed below, were selected for their quality, their coverage of countries, and their indicators. These sources have a reputation for using rigorous data collection methodologies across countries, or in cases where they collected data from individual country sources, such as censuses, they harmonized the data to ensure comparability across countries. In addition, we chose data sources in which multiple countries were represented; however, data from the same source may not be available for all countries or for the same year across countries, so caution is needed in making comparisons. For each indicator a primary data source was chosen. When data for a particular country were not available from that source, other sources were used to supplement. When data are available from the same source for multiple years, we note changes in indicators that are five percentage points or larger.

1  United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2013). World Population Prospects: The 2012 Revision, DVD Edition.