The average Canadian family has classically been understood as a with their extended family living separately. However, family structures, living arrangements and household dynamics can vary significantly depending on one’s or socioeconomic background. The archetypical family (husband, wife and biological children with extended family living separately) is no longer representative of many modern Canadian families. Single-parent households and families including step-parent and step-sibling relationships have become more commonplace as rates of divorce and remarriage have increased. Migrant families may also live in multi-generational households so they can pool income and savings, as well as help each other navigate language and cultural barriers.
Canadians have become increasingly in their approach to family. Many prioritise establishing a career and travelling before marrying or having children. Families are also getting smaller as parents choose to have fewer children (although birth rates are significantly higher among migrant and non-Anglo-European women). Overall, there has been a growing trend of people waiting until later in life before starting a family. Canadians are having children, getting married and retiring at older ages than previous generations. In vitro fertilisation (IVF) has become more common, partly in response to this older age of conception. Families are also getting smaller as parents choose to have fewer children. In the 2021 Census, the average number of children in Canadian families was 1.8.1
Adult children are also starting to live in their parents’ households for longer. In Canada, about 35% of young adults between the ages of 20 to 34 live with at least one parent, according to the 2021 census.2 Many of these young adults are ‘boomerang kids’ who have returned to their family home after living elsewhere. Men are more likely to live with their parents than women. A demographic shift has also seen a slow and steady increase in the number of elderly in Canada, with 17% of the population aged 65 years or older in 2021.3 In turn, more elderly relatives are living with adult children or other relatives in multigenerational households.
Gender does not necessarily dictate a person’s role or duty in the family; women enjoy equal rights and the opportunity to choose their form of contribution to the household dynamic. However, more women tend to have interrupted careers in order to be available to raise their children. They are also more likely to be the primary caretakers of children. For example, the vast majority (77%) of single-parent households with children are headed by women.4
Marriage and Dating
It is socially acceptable for both men and women to ask each other out on a date. Dates usually happen in contexts that allow the couple to engage in enough conversation to get to know one another (for example, over a meal or drink). It is common for a Canadian to ‘date’ or get to know multiple people at once over a period of time without having an exclusive relationship with any of those people. However, if feelings develop for a particular person, it is expected that they stop meeting new dates or seeing others. Instead they usually pursue that one person until he or she agrees to be in a committed relationship with them or indicates a lack of interest.
Canada was the third country to legalise same-sex marriage, doing so in 2005, and public opinions have grown progressively more accepting of + relationships. In turn, same-sex marriages and children born to same-sex couples are relatively common. A couple’s intimate love for one another is usually seen as essential for marriage. Marriages for economic or social reasons are rare. The average Canadian couple may be in a relationship for multiple years and live together before getting married; however, this varies significantly among individual circumstances and family backgrounds.
Canadians are marrying at an older age than previous generations. The average age of (first) marriage was 30.7 in 2020.5 Projections estimate about 40% of marriages end in divorce.6 The average age at which Canadians divorce is 46 years old.7 Although divorce rates are high, the institution of marriage is still dominant and highly valued in Canada. Almost all Canadian newlyweds will start a family in a separate household to their parent’s.
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