Canadian Culture

Family

The average Canadian family has classically been understood as a nuclear family with their extended family living separately. This remains the most common family unit; however, it can no longer be an exact social expectation. There has been an increase in the number of single-parent households (mostly headed by women) since the increase in divorce rates in the past 30 years. Furthermore, many families incorporate LGBTQI+ relationships. Thus, same-sex couples with children are becoming more common.

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 tend to have interrupted careers in order to be available to raise their children instead of the father.

As people are tending to wait until later in life to start a family, the average ages at which  family life-events occur (e.g. marriage, children, retirement) are rising. This reflects the growing individualist orientation of both men and women to want to establish a career for themselves and travel before starting a family. Women tend to be much older when they have their first child than previous generations, the average age being 29-30. In vitro fertilisation (IVF) is becoming more common. Families are also getting smaller as parents choose to have fewer children.

Children are also starting to live in their parents’ households for longer. In 2011, 42.3% of young adults aged 20 to 29 years lived with their parent(s). Many of these young adults are ‘boomerang kids’ who have moved back into their parents’ household after living outside of their home for some time. Almost one quarter of young adults who live in their parental home had left the household at some point in the past. Young 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. Thus, more elderly relatives are living in their adult children's households.

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 an 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 and LBGTQI+ relationships 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 for (first) marriage is 29 for women and 31 for men. Projections estimate about 35% to 42% of marriages end in divorce. In 2008, 40.7% of marriages were projected to end in divorce before the thirtieth wedding anniversary. The average age of divorce is 44 for men and 42 for women. 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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