Canada has recorded a massive transformation from well-structured simple families to more diverse family groups. Recent statistics from 2011 census demonstrate the changes in Canadian families and living arrangements over the past five decades. This essay explores the existing family structures in modern Canada, namely stepfamilies, single-parent families, transgender families, and other newly established family compositions.
Every society has its own definition and traditional structure of a family. These differences are attributed to the existing variations in their culture and beliefs. In 1940, the U.S. Census Bureau described a family as a group of two individuals or more associated by birth, marriage, or adoption and residing together; all such members are considered as members of one family (Biblarz & Savci, 2010).
Many countries define a family as a group of individuals dwelling in the same location without considering personal attachments between members. Canada defines a family as a close and well-developed bond between two or more persons living together. For example, a married couple without a child, a married couple with one or more unmarried children, a father with one or more unmarried children or a mother with one or more unmarried children. A couple living together may be of opposite or same sex. Children may be of birth, marriage or adoption, regardless of their age or marital status. They are considered a family as long as they live in the dwelling and do not have their spouse or child living in the residence. Grandchildren living with grandparents but with no parents also constitute a census family.
Canadian families have traced changes from the traditional nuclear families to more diverse groups: same sex couples, a common-law couples, single parents, step-familiesies, and households with growing children and grandparents. Married couples are continuously diminishing, single parenting has risen hastily, and families have gradually shrunk. The average size of a family was 3.9 in 1961. It has since dropped to 2.9 due to radical changes experienced. The Canadian government has stretched its laws to accommodate other family structures and provide for every citizens rights (Biblarz & Savci, 2010). Statistics record more complexity and definitely more diversity in the modern Canada. It suggests that there are more people living alone in Canada than there are couples with children. One person households currently make 27.6% of all homes, which is a massive increase, especially in Quebec. The number of couples with children, on the other hand, have continued to decline, down to 26.5% of all households, from 28.5% recorded in 2006.
In Tynans article, Complexities, Diversity are Hallmarks of the Modern Canadian Family, the author has pinpointed an increase in common-law marriages, arrangements of two romantically involved people leaving together. The number of common law marriage surged almost 14% from 2006. There has been a new trend where couples adopt children and thus create a stepfamily. Statistics indicate that one in 10 children in Canada lives in some sort of reconstituted arrangement.
Generally, the modern family is changing, so Canada is accommodating more structures. Despite the growing population of Canada, 5.5% increase from 2006, the number of married couples has constantly dropped, while the number of single parent families and multiple family household rises. Same sex and transgender families are also on a steep incline, up 42.4% from 2006 (Tynan, 2012).
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender families
Just recently LGBT families were not legally recognized in the world. They were considered as being unethical and illegal and governments imposed heavy punishments to discourage them. They also faced considerable resistance and intolerance from members of society. On July 20, 2005, Canada legalized same sex marriage nationwide at the enactment of the civil marriage act. Radical reforms have since been recorded allowing considerable opportunities for same-sex marriages fueled by expansion and extension of legal rights to accommodate diverse families (Biblarz & Savci, 2010).
The development and expansion of these diversities in the family structure in Canada stimulated rapid expansion of social science on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender marriage. It consists of well-structured research projects on lesbian mothers and their children, gay fathers and their children and bisexual youth. Research shows that lesbian parents, for instance, have high levels of shared employment, decision-making, parenting, and family work.
Just like other families, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender families face many challenges. They face conflicts between partners and other disagreements geared by changes in the society. When a child is born to one of the partners and the other one adopts the child to create a nuclear family, the strong initial foundation of the relationship is shaken. They are also vulnerable to race and social class prejudice, which ignite conflict as partners tend to disagree.
Canada's large and growing proportion of single-parent families is headed by women. The term single parent' includes persons who are unmarried, separated, divorced and not currently living with a legal spouse, or widowed with children (Gucciardi, Celasun & Stewart, 2004). The number of single-parent families has been increasing over the past decades in Canada. This percentage has started increasing at a slightly faster pace between 1981 and 1996. While the largest portion of single mothers are divorced, there is a growing sector that consists of younger women who have never been married.
In Focus on the Familys Growing Influence – in Canada, single mother families have been connected to poverty rates over the past decades in Canada. For example, the 1999 poverty rate of 51.8% for single mothers was almost thrice as that of single fathers (18%) and five times higher than the rate for couples with children (10.4%). It has led to substantial increase of poor children living with single mothers. Despite many of them having secondary education, the poverty rate among single parents is still higher compared to partnered parents without high school diplomas. Thus, the higher poverty rate among single mothers is large as a result of being the sole wage earner in the household (Gucciardi, Celasun & Stewart, 2004).
Though employment rates have increased for all types of families in Canada, many single mothers, whether working for pay or not, have found themselves stuck in poverty and exposed to high levels of stress, strain, and distress. It is a major factor due to the social and economic realities of women being primarily responsible for child care, as well as gender-based wage disparities. Single parents attempt to fulfill the roles of both a nurturer and a provider, but performing multiple roles leads to emotional and physical overload, increased stress and a variety of mental health problems. There is substantial evidence that shows single parents in Canada suffer from mental health problems more than partnered parents.
Step-families are defined as those, in which parents adopt their children and adequately provide for their needs as they would for their blood children. The number of these families is on the rise in Canada as more and more partners turn to orphanages to adopt children and create families. Lesbian, Gay, and Transgender marriages also influence the increase in the number of total adoptions (Gilgoff, 2009). Upon agreement partners choose to adopt a child and provide for the child. The government has established well-structured laws to govern the process and ensure that the adopted children are not exposed to harsh conditions. They are protected by regulations and partners who are subjected to the law by default.
The number of traditional nuclear families has decreased over time as more family structures develop. Traditionally a family constituted of persons sharing blood and living together in the same dwelling. According to the Canadian census of 1941 a family consists of a husband, wife and never married children living together in the same place. Radical changes have introduced other family structures: married couples without children, married couples with one or more unmarried children, fathers with one or more unmarried children, or mothers with one or more unmarried children. The introduction of new structures is attributed to the ever-changing world of technical inventions and new cultures eradicating the old, more traditional perception of families. The government of Canada has also allowed for the expansion of rights and has enacted laws to prevent the rights of all people being violated.