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It is responsible for the following ministries: Ministry to Engaged Couples click here for more information. Ministry to Married Couples and Families click here for more information. Ministry to Separated and Divorced Persons click here for more information.

Ministry for Bereavement click here for more information. Linda Jackson. Administrative Assistant. Recent years have seen a rise in variations of the nuclear family with the parents not being married. The proportion of children aged 14 and under who live with two unmarried cohabiting parents increased from Single-parent households are also on the rise. In , Of that Stepparents are an additional family element in two-parent homes. Among children living in two parent households, 10 percent live with a biological or adoptive parent and a stepparent Statistics Canada In some family structures a parent is not present at all.

In , , children 1. Of these children, 28 percent lived with grandparents, 44 percent lived with other relatives, and 28 percent lived with non-relatives or foster parents.

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If we also include families in which both parents and grandparents are present about 4. Foster children account for about 0. A grandparent functioning as the primary care provider often results from parental drug abuse, incarceration, or abandonment. Events like these can render the parent incapable of caring for his or her child. Changes in the traditional family structure raise questions about how such societal shifts affect children.

Research, mostly from American sources, has shown that children living in homes with both parents grow up with more financial and educational advantages than children who are raised in single-parent homes U. Census Bureau The Canadian data is not so clear. It is true that children growing up in single-parent families experience a lower economic standard of living than families with two parents. However, in the lowest 20 percent of families with children aged four to five years old, single parent families made up Single parent families do not make up a larger percentage of low-income families Human Resources Development Canada Moreover, both the income Williams and the educational attainment Human Resources Development Canada of single mothers in Canada has been increasing, which in turn is linked to higher levels of life satisfaction.

In research published from the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth, a long-term study initiated in that is following the development of a large cohort of children from birth to the age of 25, the evidence is ambiguous as to whether having single or dual parents has a significant effect on child development outcomes.

In fact, significant markers of poor developmental attainment were more related to the sex of the child more pronounced in boys , maternal depression, low maternal education, maternal immigrant status, and low family income To et al. For example, young children in low-income families are more likely to have vocabulary problems, and young children in higher-income families have more opportunities to participate in recreational activities Human Resources Development Canada In Sweden, where the government provides generous paid parental leave after the birth of a child, free health care, temporary paid parental leave for parents with sick children, high-quality subsidized daycare, and substantial direct child-benefit payments for each child, indicators of child well-being literacy, levels of child poverty, rates of suicide, etc.

Living together before or in lieu of marriage is a growing option for many couples.


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Cohabitation, when a man and woman live together in a sexual relationship without being married, was practised by an estimated 1. This surge in cohabitation is likely due to the decrease in social stigma pertaining to the practice. In Quebec in particular, researchers have noted that it is common for married couples under the age of 50 to describe themselves in terms used more in cohabiting relationships than marriage: mon conjoint partner or mon chum intimate friend rather than mon mari my husband Le Bourdais and Juby In fact, cohabitation or common-law marriage is much more prevalent in Quebec Cohabitating couples may choose to live together in an effort to spend more time together or to save money on living costs.

Today, approximately 28 percent of men and women cohabitated before their first marriage. By comparison, 18 percent of men and 23 percent of women married without ever cohabitating U. The vast majority of cohabitating relationships eventually result in marriage; only 15 percent of men and women cohabitate only and do not marry.

About one-half of cohabitators transition into marriage within three years U. Those who do not cohabitate before marriage have slightly better rates of remaining married for more than 10 years Jayson Cohabitation may contribute to the increase in the number of men and women who delay marriage. The average age of first marriage has been steadily increasing. In , the average age of first marriage was The number of same-sex couples has grown significantly in the past decade. Some provinces and territories had already adopted legal same-sex marriage, beginning with Ontario in June In , Statistics Canada reported 64, same-sex couple households in Canada, up by 42 percent from Of these about three in ten were same-sex married couples compared to These increases are a result of more coupling, the change in the marriage laws, growing social acceptance of homosexuality, and a subsequent increase in willingness to report it.

In Canada, same-sex couples make up 0.

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Census Bureau , the distribution of same-sex couples in Canada by province or territory is similar to that of opposite-sex couples. However, same-sex couples are more highly concentrated in big cities. In terms of demographics, Canadian same-sex couples tended to be younger than opposite-sex couples. Twenty-five percent of individuals in same-sex couples were under the age of 35 compared to There were more male-male couples Additionally, 9.

While there is some concern from socially conservative groups, especially in the United States, regarding the well-being of children who grow up in same-sex households, research reports that same-sex parents are as effective as opposite-sex parents.


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In an analysis of 81 parenting studies, sociologists found no quantifiable data to support the notion that opposite-sex parenting is any better than same-sex parenting. Children of lesbian couples, however, were shown to have slightly lower rates of behavioural problems and higher rates of self-esteem Biblarz and Stacey Gay or straight, a new option for many Canadians is simply to stay single.

In , about one-fifth of all individuals over the age of 15 did not live in a couple or family Statistics Canada Never-married individuals accounted for More young men in this age bracket are single than young women— Although both single men and single women report social pressure to get married, women are subject to greater scrutiny. However, single women older than 35 report feeling secure and happy with their unmarried status, as many women in this category have found success in their education and careers.

In general, women feel more independent and more prepared to live a large portion of their adult lives without a spouse or domestic partner than they did in the s Roberts The decision to marry or not to marry can be based a variety of factors including religion and cultural expectations. Asian individuals are the most likely to marry while black North Americans are the least likely to marry Venugopal Additionally, individuals who place no value on religion are more likely to be unmarried than those who place a high value on religion.

For black women, however, the importance of religion made no difference in marital status Bakalar In general, being single is not a rejection of marriage; rather, it is a lifestyle that does not necessarily include marriage. By age 40, according to census figures, 20 percent of women and 14 of men will have never married U.

It is often cited that half of all marriages end in divorce.

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This statistic has made many people cynical when it comes to marriage, but it is misleading. A closer look at the data reveals a different story. Using Statistics Canada data from that show a marriage rate of 4. Similar United States data for showed more or less exactly 50 percent of marriages ending in divorce Hurley This reasoning is deceptive, however, because instead of tracing actual marriages to see their longevity or lack thereof , this compares what are unrelated statistics: that is, the number of marriages in a given year does not have a direct correlation to the divorces occurring that same year.

American research published in the New York Times took a different approach—determining how many people had ever been married, and of those, how many later divorced. The result? According to this analysis, American divorce rates have only gone as high as 41 percent Hurley Another way to calculate divorce rates is the total divorce rate , which projects how many new marriages would be expected to fail after 30 years based on the divorce rate by marriage duration observed in a given year.

In Canada, the total divorce rate figure reached a high of Since then, the total divorce rate has remained steady at between 35 percent and 42 percent.

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For instance, we could determine the percentage of marriages that are intact after, say, five or seven years, compared to marriages that have ended in divorce after five or seven years. Sociological researchers must remain aware of research methods and how statistical results are applied. As illustrated, different methodologies and different interpretations can lead to contradictory, and even misleading, results.

Sociologists study families on both the macro and micro level to determine how families function.

Sociologists may use a variety of theoretical perspectives to explain events that occur within and outside of the family. In this Introduction to Sociology , we have been focusing on three perspectives: structural functionalism, critical sociology, and symbolic interactionism. When considering the role of family in society, functionalists uphold the notion that families are an important social institution and that they play a key role in stabilizing society.

They also note that family members take on status roles in a marriage or family. The family—and its members—perform certain functions that facilitate the prosperity and development of society. Sociologist George Murdock conducted a survey of societies and determined that there are four universal residual functions of the family: sexual, reproductive, educational, and economic Lee In each society, although the structure of the family varies, the family performs these four functions.

According to Murdock, the family which for him includes the state of marriage regulates sexual relations between individuals. He does not deny the existence or impact of premarital or extramarital sex, but states that the family offers a socially legitimate sexual outlet for adults Lee This outlet gives way to reproduction, which is a necessary part of ensuring the survival of society. Once children are produced, the family plays a vital role in training them for adult life.

As the primary agent of socialization and enculturation, the family teaches young children the ways of thinking and behaving that follow social and cultural norms, values, beliefs, and attitudes. Parents teach their children manners and civility. A well-mannered child reflects a well-mannered parent.