Married and co-habiting couples are having fewer children and are choosing to have them later in life, according to figures from the 2002 census which were released by the CSO today.

The survey shows a big increase in the number of people in their 20s and 30s choosing to live with their parents.

It also reveals that 38% of couples aged between 25 and 34 do not have children, compared with 28% in the last census in 1996.

The CSO describes the increase as ‘dramatic’, and it is likely to reflect the growing working pressures on young couples making them postpone the decision to have children.

The fact that increasing numbers of 20 to 30-year-olds are still living with their parents suggests many people are having difficulty buying a first home, or are staying with their parents to save for a deposit.

One-parent families have also grown over 20% to 151,000; most are located in urban areas, with the mother as the remaining parent.

The average household size has fallen to 2.95 from 3.14 in 1996, which is the continuation of long term decline from an average household size of over 4 in 1946.

The number of people choosing to live on their own has increased by 15% or 36,000 since 1996, with the strong rise in Dublin city centre indicating the impact of the boom in one-bedroom apartments in the capital.