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Marriage & Family
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A Valued Institution Under Stress

Marriage and family are highly valued by Canadians. In a 2002 survey, nearly 80 percent said the family is the their first priority. [2] The overwhelming majority of Canadians still live with family members, whether with a spouse, a parent, a child or extended family. [3] Among unmarried Canadians in their twenties, over three-quarters expect to get married. [4] According to a 2003 survey, 83 percent of Canadians said they supported allotting additional government resources to families with children. [5]

Even so, Canadian families are increasingly under stress. Family breakdown is common; according to the most recent numbers from Statistics Canada, 37.6 percent of marriages in Canada are projected to end in divorce. Canadian children are experiencing their parents' separation at increasingly younger ages, and missing out on the practical benefits that are inherent to marriage. [6]

The Right to Mom and Dad

A healthy marriage is a unique source of benefits for children, including the stability of the family and the access of children to a mother and a father. Marriage recognizes the best interests of the child to know intimately and experience his or her biological and social heritage. It offers the practical ideal that does not intentionally forfeit the child’s right to grow up being nurtured by both parents. Studies show that children whose parents are married to each other are generally better adjusted and have fewer problems than those of single parents or blended families. Neither the church, nor the government nor any other institution can confer the innate benefits of marriage on different relationships.

What about Common-Law?

Marriages generally last twice as long as common-law relationships. Approximately 38 percent of marriages are expected to end in separation or divorce, compared with approximately 60 percent of common-law relationships. [7] Further, children whose parents get married without first living common-law are three times more likely to have their family stay together. Children whose parents live common-law and never marry are most likely to see their family dissolve. By the age of 10, 63% of children from common-law unions had their parents separate, compared to 14% of children whose parents were married and had never lived common-law. [8]


[2] Canadian Attitudes on the Family, Focus on the Family Canada with the Strategic Council, October 2002.
[3] From the Kitchen Table to the Boardroom Table: The Canadian Family and the Work Place, The Vanier Institute of the Family.
[4] Dave Dupuis, "What influences people's plans to have children," Canadian Social Trends, Winter 1996.
[5] “Canadian Religious Beliefs and Practices: Results of an Ipsos-Reid Survey conducted Sept. 23-October 12, 2003.
[6] Nicole Marcil-Gratton, Growing up with Mom and Dad? The intricate life courses of Canadian children, Statistics Canada, July 1998.
[7]General Social Survey – Cycle 15: Changing Conjugal Life in Canada, Statistics Canada, July 2002.
[8] Nicole Marcil-Gratton, Growing up with Mom and Dad? The intricate life courses of Canadian children, Statistics Canada, July 1998.

Issue: Marriage & Family

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