New census data illustrates changing definition of 'family' in Canada
Published Wednesday, September 19, 2012 7:56AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, September 19, 2012 10:38PM EDT
Traditional marriage appears to be on the decline in Canada, while same-sex couples, step-families and common-law unions are on the rise, according to new census data from Statistics Canada.
The latest instalment from the 2011 census focuses on families and marital status, as well as housing in the period between 2006 and 2011.
According to the data, the number of traditional married couples declined in Canada as a proportion of all households defined as families, but still comprised two-thirds of all family groups in the country.
Of the 9,389,700 families counted in the census, 6,294,000 were married couples -- an increase of 3.1 per cent from the 2006 census, but a smaller proportion than in the past, StatsCan said.
Meanwhile, common-law couples increased as a proportion of all families. There were 1,567,900 common-law families in Canada in 2011, an increase of 13.9 per cent compared to five years earlier.
Single-parent families were also on the rise, up 8 per cent to just over 1,527,800.
And the number of same-sex couples shot up dramatically -- a change that reflects the legalization of gay marriage in Canada. In 2011 there were 64,575 same-sex couple families, a spike of 42.4 per cent from the 2006 census, StatsCan said.
Of those same-sex families, 21,015 were married couples, while 43,560 were common-law.
In order to qualify as a family, under StatsCan’s definition, at least two people must be living under the same roof.
Wednesday’s release marks the third block of data to be released from the massive swath of data collected in the 2011 census. Population was covered in a February release by Statistics Canada. Age and sex were the focus in May, and the final installment in October will look at language, according to Statistics Canada.
The latest release delves deeper than ever before into how families are comprised, from the traditional two-parent family, to step-families and same-sex families.
Never before has the census parsed out blended families, a shift that revealed new insights into how those families are comprised.
The census showed that one out of every 10 children age 14 and under, living in private households, was part of a in a step-family in 2011. That adds up to 464,335 step-families in 2011, representing 12.6 per cent of the 3.7 million couple families with children.
“One of the interesting things about a census is it gives Canadians an opportunity to see themselves across the country and to begin to see that they’re not alone,” said Nora Spinks. CEO of the Vanier Institute of the Family.
“And if they are going through some tough times like trying to navigate the complexities of a blended family or going through a divorce…knowing they’re not alone is a really important piece of the census experience.”
While the makeup of Canadian families has changed dramatically over the last few decades, that does not necessarily mean that “traditional family values are on their way out,” Jennifer Tipper of the Vanier Institute of the Family told CTV’s Power Play Wednesday.
We now have “multiple variations of the family form,” but families are adapting to their own and societal needs just like they’ve done for generations,” Tipper said.
She noted that gender norms seem to be shifting in Canada – the number of single fathers raising their children has been steadily increasing.
“That isn’t something we would have seen 20 years ago,” Tipper said.
The census also, for the first time, includes a tally of the number of foster children living in Canada -- data that has so far been unknown and is prized by social workers and child welfare advocates hoping to get a better grasp on the situation.
Of the total number of children age 14 and under, 0.5 per cent, or 29,590 were foster children, StatsCan said.
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