Families Count 2024: new resource on family structure now available

Families Count 2024 is now available

Projects

Families Count 2024

Vanier Institute’s new resource explores three decades of change, continuity, and complexity among families in Canada. Released during the International Year of the Family’s 30th anniversary, Families Count 2024 provides statistical portraits of families in Canada, highlights trends over time, and offers insights on what it all means for families and family life.

Family structure: the shape of families and family life

One of the lenses of the Family Diversities and Wellbeing Framework focuses on family structure. This lens represents the combination of relationships that make up a family or family household. It highlights how people are linked to form and grow families through kinship or other bonds that are recognized in legislation or social convention.

Focusing on family structure allows us to shed light on how laws and policies about family formation and dissolution reflect societal beliefs about who makes up a family. Importantly, it also sets boundaries around the rights and obligations that flow from these connections.

Family structure has several dimensions, such as whether a family has children, whether a family is centred around one parent and their child(ren) or if it is a couple family, and whether couple families are married or living common-law. It also explores different family household types and living arrangements, such as in multigenerational households, stepfamily households, and those comprised of grandparents and grandchildren without the presence of a parent (i.e., skip-generation households).

The family structure lens looks at how families grow, whether through childbirth, adoption, or surrogacy. It examines how family structures and relationships change throughout the life course, whether through marriage, divorce, or forming a stepfamily, or the death of family members. It investigates less common ways that people “do relationships,” whether as couples “living apart together” in separate households, or in a polyamorous relationship comprised of more than two people.

Over the last half-century, family structures have become considerably more diverse, driven by social, economic, cultural, and environmental changes. Some of these changes have contributed to family transitions happening later in life than in the past, such as moving out of the parental home, getting married, and having children. Chapters in this section will provide updated portraits of family structures and will examine how changing contexts have shaped families and family life in Canada.