Seven out of 10 Australians believe a child needs to grow up in a home with both a mother and father to be happy, 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 in Australia.
A third of births in Australia are to unmarried women compared with half in the UK and NZ.
''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 says, noting that in many countries living together is a precursor or alternative to marriage.
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 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 a mother and father. This belief is held by at least nine out of 10 adults in Asia and the Middle East, 70 per cent of Australians, 63 per cent of Americans but less than half of Swedes.
Globally there is general support for working women, with most adults believing working mothers could establish relationships with their children that were as good as those formed by stay-at-home parents. Swedes are most likely to agree with this, Jordanians least likely.
European countries spend most on family benefits - at least 4 per cent of gross domestic product in Britain, Sweden, Ireland and France. Less than 3 per cent of Australia's GDP and 1.2 per cent in the US goes to family benefits.