40 Percent of Children 14 and Under Are Not Living With Married Parents: Report


About 40 percent of Canadian children ages 0–14 do not live with married parents, according to a new report by Cardus, a think tank.

Data collected during COVID-19 suggested “a significant decline in marriage rates, divorce rates, and fertility,” according to the report, “Canadian Children at Home: Living Arrangements in the 2021 Census,” published Feb. 28. The report indicated it used previously unreleased Statistics Canada data from the 2021 census to examine the living arrangements of children from newborn to age 14 in Canadian families.

Parental marital status and the portion of intact families is an indirect measure of family stability, suggested the report. “Measuring instability in the family lives of children is important because instability is correlated with a higher risk of poor outcomes among children,” it said.

The report analyzed how many children live in single-parent families, married-parent families, and common-law families. It also considers children living in step-families, and compares the data to previous census cycles over a 25-year period.

According to the report, 60 percent of children in Canada live in families with married parents. Back in 1996, about 73 percent of children lived with their married parents, but the report said although the number had been declining for decades, the numbers have held steady since 2016, declining only 0.3 percent.

Similarly, the number of children in single-parent homes has remained relatively stable for the last five years. In Manitoba, Yukon, and British Columbia, the number of married-parent families saw a slight increase.

One in five Canadian children are living with a lone parent, while roughly 17 percent of children live in common-law families. One in three children living in common-law families are in step-families, while less than 7 percent of children in married-parent families are in step-families.


Quebec affects the national numbers with its sizeable population, notes the report. About 43 percent of all couples in Quebec are common law. “Nearly as many children in Quebec live in common-law families (38.9 percent) as in married-parent families (39.4 percent),” it noted.

Nunavut was also unique in this regard, with children more likely to be living in a common-law family (33.7 percent), or a single-parent family (28.3 percent) than in a married-parent family (26.5 percent), with the territory having the highest portion of children living in single-parent families and the fewest children living in married-parent families in Canada.

“Children’s living arrangements matter because while no family is perfect or immune to break-up, married families are generally less likely to dissolve than non-married families—and children in healthy, stable homes tend to be happier and healthier, and to do better in school,” suggested the report.

Peter Jon Mitchell, the author of the report and family program director at Cardus, said in a news release on Feb. 28, “Good kids come from all kinds of families, but governments should consider family structure when discussing inequality and children’s wellbeing.”

“Given the benefits of healthy marriages, governments concerned about inequality should address barriers preventing young adults from forming stable marriages and families.”

The report notes that the divorce rate in Canada has been on the decline, but some analysts suggest this is the result of fewer people getting married.

“The decline in divorce may also be correlated with the fact that couples are marrying at older ages than in the past. Some social scientists theorize that older people are more selective in whom they marry compared to younger people, resulting in increased marital stability,” said the report.


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