Custody, Access and Child Support: Findings from The National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth

II - THE COMPLEX FAMILY LIVES OF CANADIAN CHILDREN (continued)

An Increasing Proportion of Children are Experiencing Life in Single Parent Families and at an Increasingly Young Age

Figure 3 presents the proportion of Canadian children who experienced life in a single parent family among various birth cohorts. More specifically, it shows the cumulative percentage of children who were born to a lone parent or who had experienced their parents' separation before their last birthday.

Figure 3: Cumulative Percentage of Canadian Children Who Were Born to a Lone Parent or Have Experienced the Separation of Their Parents, for Various Birth Cohorts

Figure 3: Cumulative Percentage of Canadian Children Who Were Born to a Lone Parent or Have Experienced the Separation of Their Parents, for Various Birth Cohorts

[ Description ]

Sources: 1961-1963 Cohorts = Family History Survey 1984; 1971-1973 Cohorts = General Social Survey 1990; 1983-1984 and 1987-1988 Cohorts = NLSCY 1994-1995.

Figure 3 illustrates that an increasing proportion of children are living in single parent families and at an increasingly young age. Let us first examine the family situations of children who were born 30 years ago (1961-1963 cohorts). In these cohorts, almost 25 percent of the children were either born to a single mother or had seen their parents separate before they reached the age of 20. Half of the parents of this group had separated after the child reached the age of 10, which means the separation occurred after the 1968 amendments to the Divorce Act which made it easier for couples to divorce.

Children who were born 10 years later (1971-1973 cohorts) experienced their parents' separation at an even younger age. By age fifteen, 25 percent of these children had already experienced life in a single parent family. Three times out of four, the child had experienced this before the age of ten.

Children from the NLSCY who were born after 1983 experienced their parents' separation even earlier. By age 10, one child out of four born in 1983-1984 had experienced life in a single parent family and nearly 23 percent of children in the younger cohorts (those born in 1987-1988) experienced the same by the age of 6.

There is little reason to suggest that these trends will slow down in the near future, since the rising proportion of children born in common-law unions face a higher risk of experiencing their parents' separation, as we shall now see.

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