Recent Changes in Family Structure

If you ask people what the word family means to them, you will probably get different answers from all of them. Family conjures up different meanings for everyone and depending on whom you ask, family can be the most important thing in a person’s life. For thousands of years, the construct of a family has usually consisted of a male and female parent, and their children but that has begun to change in the world of today. Families in the current times are becoming very diverse and have been changing steadily over the past few decades.

A family to most people is a place that takes care of you, a place where people care for you no matter what you do because they will always learn to forgive you. A family raises their child or children until adulthood, they are the reason that their child has the mannerisms they do, and the reason they act a certain way. A family is often the only support some people have and can be the best thing in a person’s life, but sometimes it is not, and it is no one’s fault if they have a bad family.

Children need a good environment to prosper and grow and it is the duty of the parents to create that environment. This paper will explore the complexities of the changing family construct and more importantly the financial and emotional struggles that married/common law families face versus single parent families. This paper will also explore the very limited number of programs that are offered for parents, whether single or married/common law.

Married parents, compared to single parents, can have a bit more of an edge when it comes to financial and emotional support. The research done in the 2012 David C. Ribar study, it was found that marriage should produce advantages that improve a child’s wellbeing by ways of income, involvement from fathers, parental physical and mental health, quality of parenting, social supports, health insurance, home ownership, parents’ relationships, and stability within the family (Ribar 2012). This proves that there can be an edge in multiple parent families compared to single-parent families. Not only are there two parents to share the load of children but there can also be two families, the maternal and paternal families. Married couples that have children support each other in life, and if both parents have an income, then it is easier to divide the bills and be able to afford rent/mortgage and the other bills. Being happily married with the love of your life and having a few children is the dream that a lot of people have when they are young, or it’s the dream for them from their parents. Being happily married is what people expect of others. Society believes that women should go to school and so should men but that they should find someone and be married to them by a certain point in their life. If a married couple/common law couple is stable, they do not have many fights, they are happy and good then it can be one of the best environments for a child. Being able to have a mother and a father figure in their life is essential to a child learning how to act with others.

Single parent families are those that can be defined a parent living with dependent children, either alone or in a larger household, without a spouse or partner ( When it comes to society and the view that people have of single parent families, the opinions seem to be quite poor. People have no idea what has gone on in someone else’s life, but they still have an opinion and look down on others. Single mothers dominate the single parent statistic, but single fathers are becoming more prominent in society, especially the past couple decades. Some people believe that a single parent taking care of their children is setting up the child for failure in life is a very huge underestimation of the capabilities of a mother and the love she has for her child(ren). Often times, at least for the past few decades, people have believed that women should remain at home and be a stay-at-home mother while the father goes to work. When a mother becomes a single-parent and has to work more and spend less time with her children, people believe that she is being selfish, and such views are quite absurd ( Single-parent families are just capable of being loving and taking care of their children as married/common law families.

When it comes to the construct of families in Canada, according to the 2011 Canadian Consensus, families in Canada are changing very much over the years. The families that lives in the homes of Canada are going from the nuclear male and female parent families to single parents, and same-sex families as well. The number of families in Canada in 2011 was found to be at 9.3 million, or 83.7 percent, which was up over five percent from the last consensus year of 2006. The dominant family structure in the consensus was married couples at 67 percent, which has been the predominant structure for a long time but is decreasing over time. With this information being from 2011, one can only imagine how much more the information will have changed from then until now, eight years later. When it comes to single parent families, it is usually more female parents alone then male parents alone. The growth of single male parents grew sixteen percent compared to six percent of single female parents (Milan & Bohnert, 2018). The construct of families, not only in Canada but the rest of the world as well, are changing. Families are becoming more blended, they include adopted children, half-siblings, step-parents and children, children born from surrogates, and so many other ways to have families. There are so many options in the world when it comes to families, and people are having relationships that are so close that they even consider friends to be family. The home and the family constructs really are changing, and this is not a bad thing at all, people are choosing to be happy with whomever they want no matter what anyone may say and that is how it should be.

The cost of living is on a steady upward slope not only here in Canada but the rest of the world as well and many people are struggling to make ends meet in this world. Smaller towns usually have lower rent when it comes to apartments/homes but can often be more expensive when it comes to food and other services. Most people are paying monthly rent or monthly mortgage for the home in which they reside, along with groceries, families might have daycare costs, other bills, it is all a lot for two parents to pay for, let alone one parent. There are very few programs in place that are meant to help out parents with the financial burden of having children and the two main financial programs put in place to help parents are the same for single parents as it is married/common law parents. Of the few programs set in place in Canada made to help parents with children is subsidized daycare. Though there is subsidized daycare, there are a few hoops that must be jumped through in order to receive any sort of compensation. In order for parents to be able to receive subsidized care, the child must be in a specially recognized daycare. These daycares often have very long waiting lists, and the amount given in subsidization only covers a fraction of the monthly payments towards child care as long as the child in question fits the specific criteria. The availability of a spot in subsidized daycare and the fact that the child has to be in daycare for a certain number of hours in a month really takes away from the parents who really need the help of subsidized care. Being able to put a child in daycare and receive money to help pay for that would be nice, no matter if it was one of the ones on the list or not.

A second program that is in place meant to help parents with the financial burden of having children is a monthly child benefit cheque. Once a month, a designated parent, often the mother unless otherwise changed, receives a cheque of a certain amount to help with the expenses of having children from month to month. The amount received is determined by the bracket at which the parents are in for gross incomes in a year to year basis and depending on how many children said parents have. Though this sounds like a good program in place, there are a few problems that people face from time to time including missing cheques, incorrect amounts, or cheques being sent to the wrong home. This program could be a really good thing for families, minus the smaller problems that happen, if the amounts were a little higher and the brackets that determined how much each family gets for a child should be divided more instead of just two categories, make ones that are in ten thousand dollar increments.

Another program that has been set in place to help parents with their children is the Family Treatment Program for Ranch Ehrlo Society in Regina. The program is meant to help parents work out any sort of problems in their family using group and individual therapies. The program has parent support groups, recovery groups, parental education, 24/7 dad groups, horse therapy and writing groups. The program caters to the family in question, there is even housing for those that need it, and services to help children with specific needs (developmental delays and such) (Ranch Ehrlo Society 2017). This is a good program to have not only the for children but for the parents as well, everyone can learn and grow in this situation. These kinds of programs are needed across the country to help all those that need help. The direct one-on-one and the group therapy and education offered in this program is great for any sort of family and the problems they are having.

There are also many school districts in the communities of Canada that offer types of programs for children to participate in, depending on the time of year and a few other things like availability of staff/volunteers. During the winter months, there are inside activities to do such as intramurals and sports. During the warmer months there is often outside sports and activities of the kind. These activities can be free or even require that a small fee that has to be paid.

The word family conjures up different meanings for everyone and depending on who you ask, family can be the most important thing in a person’s life. For thousands of years, the construct of a family has usually consisted of and male and female parent, and their children but that has begun to change in the world of today. Families in the current times are becoming very diverse and have been changing steadily over the past few decades.

This paper explored the many complexities of the changing family construct and the financial and emotional struggles that married/common law families face versus single parent families. Throughout the past few decades, families have become more diverse and these changes are also becoming a lot more accepted by society. This paper also explored the limited number of programs that are offered for parents, whether single or married/common law, in Canada. Canada could benefit from refining the programs and making all more readily available and refine the less appealing aspects then it would be a greater support to families and parents. Having a child(ren) is a challenge no matter what situation the family happens to be. Whether there are two parents or one, it will always be difficult to raise a child, though there is nothing wrong with single-parent families, they still offer support and love.


  1. Milan, A., & Bohnert, N. (2018, July 23). Portrait of Families and Living Arrangements in
  2. Canada. Retrieved July 20, 2019, from
  3. ecensement/2011/as-sa/98-312-x/98-312-x2011001-eng.cfm
  4. Ranch Ehrlo Society. (2017). Family Treatment Program. Retrieved July 20, 2019, from
  6. Ribar, D. C. (2012). Why Marriage Matters for Child Wellbeing. The Future Children,25(2), 11-
  7. 27. doi:10.1515/9781400843114.toc
  8. ‘Single-Parent Families.’ Child Development. Retrieved July 21, 2019 from
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