On June 1, Cardus Family released a report that explores the gap between Canadians’ realities and their expectations for children and child care, family life, the role of marriage, and caring for the elderly. Andrea Mrozek, program director of Cardus Family, told The Interim the survey as a “snapshot of Canadian family attitudes,” saying it is “something we will continue to periodically do.” As cultural values and ideas change, it is important to identify trends and responses that reflects Canadian family life.
Survey respondents were asked to rank the importance of family life on a scale of one to ten (one being not important and ten being very important). With an average score of 9.49, a majority of Canadians expressed the importance of having a positive family life, highlighting the immense value of creating an environment that allows a positive family life to flourish. Nearly four-out-of-five Canadians (78 per cent) believe that the concept of marriage remains a positive aspect of a family.
However, only 57 per cent of respondents claim to be married to an opposite-sex partner and the Cardus Family survey also discovers that the average number of children Canadians are having (2.27) is significantly less than they want (2.72).
The survey identifies the obstacles in having the ideal number of children and the cost of a family ranks at the top of the list. Mrozek says “Canadians may have a hard time living out their aspirations.”
Mrozek said the financial struggle suggests a shift of government funding priorities could help families fulfill their dreams of optimal size, and to flourish. Whether it is cash payments to parents, tax deductions for stay-at-home parents, or subsidies to child-care centres, Canadians are looking for greater assistance for young families.
Although there are many difficulties for families to thrive, the desire to have more children is a positive takeaway says Mrozek. If the yearning for more children continues to grow, the culture must respond to this longing and the appropriate measures must be taken.
Along with affordability, personal issues are another impediment to couples raising families. Long working hours and a busy social life are identified as limiting the amount of time individuals spend with their families.
Despite the decrease of married couples over the years – Statistics Canada records a 3.5 per cent decline from 2001 to 2011 – the survey suggests that a majority (56 per cent) of Canadians do not believe that marriage is an outdated institution. In comparison to a study in 2002 when 73 per cent of participants agreeing or somewhat agreeing that marriage is an outdated institution, the Cardus Family researchers suggest that there is a decline in understanding the purpose and function of a marriage in society. Mrozek said there is a responsibility for families, schools and churches to teach about marriage.
The current study shows a widening generational gap between the youngest and the oldest cohort regarding the connection between marriage and a positive life, although large majorities of all ages agree with the sentiment: 72 per cent among young adults and 89 per cent among seniors. If young people learn about the purpose and contributions of marriage to society then there might be an increase of Canadians viewing the concept of marriage as a positive influence and factor in family life, says Mrozek.
Cardus Family is formerly the Institute for Marriage and Family Canada, which merged with Cardus, a think tank dedicated to the renewal of North American social architecture.