Slightly more children experiencing parental separation

Teenage girl burying her face in some clothes.
© Hollandse Hoogte / Robin Utrecht
In 2019, the share of minor children (under 18) witnessing their parents’ divorce or separation stood at 1.5 percent. This is equivalent to nearly 49 thousand children, 6.5 thousand more than in 1999. The number of children experiencing parental separation increased less rapidly between 2009 and 2019 than between 1999 and 2009. At the end of 2019, 2 in 10 minors had parents who were not living together. Minors from families with lower wealth are more likely to experience parental separation. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reports this based on a survey as part of the National Youth Monitor.

The share of children whose parents separate has risen slightly. In 2019, this share amounted to 1.5 percent. It stood at 1.4 percent in 2009 and 1.2 percent in 1999. Children aged 2 to 6 years are relatively most likely to see their parents split up.

Minors experiencing parental separation
leeftijd1999 (%)2009 (%)2019 (%)

At the end of 2019, 2 in every 10 minors (723 thousand among a total of 3.3 million) had parents who were not living together. This was 1 in 10 among infants (0-1 years) and 3 in 10 among 17-year-olds.

Almost 49 thousand children saw parents split up in 2019

In 2019, the parents of 48.7 thousand minors separated. This is 650 more than in 2009 and 6.5 thousand more than in 1999. The majority of these parents were married; nevertheless, the share of children with parents who were not married has grown, from 15 percent in 1999 to 26 percent in 2009 and 37 percent in 2019.

Minors experiencing parental separation
jaarUnmarried parents (x 1,000)Married parents (x 1,000)

The number of 4 to 11-year-olds and 12 to 17-year-olds who experienced parental separation rose by 13 and 26 percent respectively between 1999 and 2009. The rise was much smaller between 2009 and 2019 with 0.5 and 2.6 percent respectively. Throughout this survey period, the number of 0 to 3-year-olds experiencing parental separation remained more or less the same. The fact that, despite the rising shares, only a minor absolute increase is seen between 2009 and 2019 in the number of children with divorced parents is due to a decline in the total number of minors over this period.

Minors experiencing parental separation, by age category
leeftijdscategorie1999 (x 1,000)2009 (x 1,000)2019 (x 1,000)
0 to 3 yrs9.579.739.89
4 to 11 yrs21.6924.6024.73
12 to 17 yrs10.9413.7614.12

Higher divorce rates among families with lower wealth

Children who grow up in a family with lower wealth are relatively more likely to experience parental separation. Among minors from households ranking in the bottom wealth quintile (i.e. the group of households with the lowest standardised income and assets) as at 1 January 2018, 2.1 percent had parents who separated in 2019. This share was 1.2 percent in the highest wealth quintile (i.e. group of households with the highest standardised income and assets).

Minors on 1 January 2018 with parental separation in 2019, by level of household wealth
KwintielSeparation (%)
1st quintile,
lowest wealth
2nd quintile1.9
3rd quintile1.7
4th quintile1.5
5th quintile,
highest wealth

Divorce rate similar to one decade ago among couples with minor children

In 2019, approximately 29 thousand parents - either married or unmarried - ceased cohabitation while raising minor children together. This number is the same as in 2009; it is 4.5 thousand more than in 1999. Of the couples with children who separated in 2019, 4 in 10 were never married; in 2009, this was 3 in 10, while in 1999 it was only 2 in 10.
According to provisional figures over 2020, both the number of divorces and the number of children involved did not rise relative to 2019.