JustFacts

June 2016
Research and Statistics Division

Family Structure in Canada

This fact sheet is based on the Census (2011) and contains data from custom tabulations from Statistics Canada.

For the first time in 2011, the number of common-law couple families surpassed the number of lone-parent families

In 2011, married couple families remained the predominant family structure (67%).

In 2011, the number of common-law couple families (1,567,910) surpassed the number of lone-parent families (1,527,840) for the first time. Common-law couples represented 16.7% of all census families, while lone-parent families represented 16.3%.

Family Type as a Proportion of all Families (2011)

Family Type as a Proportion of all Families (2011)

Description

Pie chart describing the proportion of all family types

  • Married couples without children - 35.1%
  • Married couples with children - 31.9%
  • Common law couples without children - 9.4%
  • Common law couples with children - 7.3%
  • Lone-parent families - 16.3%

Source: Statistics Canada, Census 2011

87% of couples with children lived in intact families

Of the 3,684,675 couples with children in 2011Footnote 1, 87.4% were intact families-that is, families comprised of two parents and their biological or adopted children- and 12.6% were stepfamilies,Footnote 2.

In Quebec, the number of common-law couple families increased 13.5% between 2006 and 2011

In Quebec, where the high prevalence of common-law couple families has been one of the defining family patterns for years, the number of common-law couple families increased 13.5% between 2006 and 2011 to over 694,750. They accounted for 44.3% of the national total of this type of family structure in 2011.

Trends over time

The number of census families in Canada-married couples, common-law couples and lone-parent families-more than doubled between 1961 and 2011, from 4.1 million families in 1961 to 9.4 million families in 2011Footnote 3.

In 1961, married couples accounted for 91.6% of census families. By 2011, this proportion had declined to 67%. This decrease was mostly a result of the growth of common-law couples.

While the number of married couples rose 19.7% over the 30-year period between 1981 and 2011Footnote 4, the number of common-law couples more than quadrupled.

Common-law couples represented 5.6% of all census families in 1981. Since then, the proportion of common-law couples grew steadily to 16.7% of all census families in 2011.

Between 2006 and 2011, the number of common-law couples rose 13.9%, more than four times the 3.1% increase for married couples. Lone-parent families increased 8.0% over the same period.

Growth was higher for male-led lone-parent families (+16.2%) than for female lone-parent families (+6.0%).

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