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The Cultural Heritage of Canada Exploratory Essay


As each generation changes it creates a unique identity. With the changes in generational identity, the family life also changes. The main culprit of this change is the value system. An analysis of the past 3-4 Canadian generations demonstrate that each generation regards values differently.

Statistics demonstrate that the percentage of the single-parent families has considerably increased, and the proportion of legal marriages has declined. In addition, the percentage of the common law marriages is on the rise. The statistics further indicate that divorce cases and instances of remarriage have considerably increased. This survey demonstrates that the Canadian family set up has shifted from the traditional type of family.

With the 20th century, the emphasize place on marriage shifted with people prioritizing education and financial security. The cultural heritage of Canada required people to establish independent households. Since this necessitated large financial investments, young men worked for longer years in order to have enough savings before marriage. Thus, the average age at first marriage rose for both the men and women.

In the 19th century, farming was the main source of livelihood (Bradbury, 214). During this era, families lived on farms and couples considered it advantageous to have large families. Children engaged in daily chores and provided a source of farm labor.

Considering the various religious doctrines that considerably influenced the society, and the lack of effective measures regarding birth control, the average number of children was significantly large at an average of 6.6 children per household in 1851. In the late 19th century, families started shifting to cities due to the numerous economic opportunities created by industrialization (Milan, 3).

Due to the numerous cases of child engaging in long working hours in unsafe conditions, and after making other considerations, the government implemented the child labor laws and a law demanding a mandatory school-attendance until the age of 16 years.

These changes initiated the decline in the family size in Canada. In this regard, by 1921, the average family size had declined to 3.5 children per household (Milan, 3). The existing restrictive laws that only granted divorce with the proof of adultery, significantly mitigated divorce cases.

In the late 19th century, the family set up was rigid with the instances of lone parents, childless couples, and couples living under the common-law existing not as an individual choice, but because of unavoidable circumstances like the death of a spouse. Poor health conditions and frequent diseases during this era caused high mortality rates (Milan, 3). The empty nest scenario was common.

Due to the prevalence of couples dying at young age, widows and widowers remarried, as they needed assistance in raising the young children, domestic labor, or financial support. For example, statistics show that in 1921, 17 percent of the marriages involved previously married spouse(s). The Great Depression further accelerated the decline in the number of children born in Canada.

Most of the people were unable to handle the financial and social responsibilities of marriage due to the immense financial constrains. In this regard, marriage rates declined. The period around the 1930 witnessed birth rates of less than an average of three children per woman. Furthermore, a considerable number of women with high levels of education and income abstained from having any children.

The onset of the Second World War affected the Canadian family set up in various ways. The uncertainties associated with the war and the fear that conscription might be introduced oversaw rushed marriages, and increased remarriages and divorces in the period after the war. In addition, the post war period witnessed numerous changes in the family structure (Milan, 5).

The number of relatives and extended family members attached to particular household declined. By the 1950s, most families comprised of only the parents and the dependent children. In this new family set up, the husband was employed outside the home while the wife cared for the children at home.

A further decline in the marriage rates towards the end of the 20th century was accompanied by an increase in the number of couples living together in the common-law arrangement. Although traditionally the women were expected to marry to older men, this norm was less observed with the various social changes facilitating the shrinking age gap between couples (McLanahan, 610).

This trend indicated the narrowing gap between men and women in terms of their relative status in the society. Thus, these social changes eroded the traditional attitudes and practices that shaped the family set up.

They gave women more independence especially through economic empowerment and instigated the acceptance of the previously despised non-marriage alternatives. They have also promoted the tendency towards late marriages and in some cases the full absconding from marriage.

The introduction of the divorce act in 1968 changed the regulations and perceptions that discouraged the termination of marriages. An amendment of the act in 1986 created significantly less restrictive divorce laws (Milan, 7). These laws coupled with various social changes promoted divorce as a socially acceptable option for an individual whose marriage was not up to his or her expectations.

The number of lone parents, especially lone mothers, increased considerably attributed to the increasing divorces and the number of births outside unions (McLanahan, 609).

The growing financial independence of women as they can afford to raise their children by their own has also contributed to this trend especially in the 21st century. In addition, the law favors women about the custody of children in divorce cases. Remarriages have also increased as divorce increases the population of people eligible to remarry.

Towards the end of the 20th century, the fertility rates considerably declined to reach the lowest recorded fertility rate in the history of Canada. This resulted from the development of more effective contraceptives that facilitated couples to limit the number of their children. In addition, more women entered the labor force, thus increasing the cost of bearing children.

Unlike in the 18th and early 19th century, women postponed parenthood in the pursuance of education and employment opportunities (Bradbury, 211). The 21st century has witnessed an increase in this trend with the parents dedicating less time and energy towards their children.

Blended families, which were rare in the 18th century, have considerably increased with many couples having children from previous relationships. Nearly 10 percent of Canadian children live in blended families, which comprise of children from the present relationship and those from the wife’s previous relationships.

Such family set ups experience numerous complications with the children finding it difficult to get along with their stepparents and siblings unlike in the traditional family set up. It is projected that by around the mid 21st century the number of people living in common-law relationships will be as much as that of the people in legal marriages. This norm is becoming more acceptable among both the young and the old.

Works Cited

Bradbury, B. “Single Parenthood in the Past.” heldref-publications.metapress.com. N.p., 2000. Web.

McLanahan, S. “How Children Are Faring Under The Second Demographic Transition.” Jstor. N.p., 2004. Web. <>.

Milan , Anne. “by Anne Milan – Statistics Canada.” Statistics Canada. N.p., 2000. Web. <>.

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1. IvyPanda. "The Cultural Heritage of Canada." June 6, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/canadian-families/.


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