Multiples Matter: Investigating the support needs of multiple birth families

March 20, 2023

Progressive Economics

Families with multiples face a greater set of challenges compared to those with singletons. These challenges include significant financial pressures due to the additional costs associated with having multiples and the challenge of incurring many child-specific costs concurrently. This situation can also necessitate greater time commitment to child-rearing and can reduce the time available for gainful work and recreation.

Moreover, many families report physical exhaustion, particularly mothers who may be recovering from childbirth, resulting in significant sleep deprivation, further impacting the family’s capacity to engage in their gainful employment activities. Families observe a decline in income after the birth of multiples, placing greater strain on the family unit, particularly for those without significant familial or social supports.

Meeting the developmental needs of a multiple birth is also more challenging due to potential birth complications and the frequency of premature birth. There is less time relatively to dedicate to developmental activities with each child, which has the potential to hinder their progress. This delay in development is only compounded when families face difficulties accessing supportive playgroups and early childcare education. There is also often significant energy dedicated to coordination and logistics, given that existing children often have school, child-care, co-curricular and extracurricular activities.

In Australia, there is little financial and welfare support afforded to multiple birth families, despite modest payments for higher order births (i.e. triplets or more, excluding twin births). Additionally, the program of supports within Australia has not kept pace with the standards and conventions of other advanced economies, with Australia ranking near last in terms of the level of support afforded to mothers after the birth of multiples.

The Australian Multiple Birth Association (AMBA) has commissioned Per Capita to examine the needs of multiple birth families, and the evaluate the extant supports provided within Australia and comparable OECD economies.