Class: FRHD*1020 (Couple and Family Relationships)
Professor: S. Murray
Textbook: “The Family Dynamic – A Canadian Perspective” Fifth Edition
Authors: Margaret Ward and Marc Belanger
Chapter 9: The Lone-Parent Family – The Majority Future?
• To look at the place of single parenthood in the family life cycle
• To consider variations in single parenthood
• To examine the quality of life of single-parent families, including that of the children
• To explore two special groups of single parents – the very young mother and the single father
North American society expects adults in the family to come in pairs, of opposite sex. “Noah’s Ark Syndrome”.
Lone parent families may be considered “broken” or “incomplete.” More than 80% of lone-parent families had
women as the head of the family. Between 1966-1991, lone-parent families increased 269%, number of
husband-wife families increased 147%. 2006 – 15.9% of families were lone-parent families, 25.8% of those
with children. One in five children born in the 1960s had lived in a single-parent home; by age 12 for children
born in the 1970s; age 8 born in the 1980s and by age 5 for those born in the 1990s which eludes to younger
ages for those in the future. 2006 – 15.9% of Canadian families were lone-parent families but the actual
proportion of Canadian families who have ever experienced lone parenthood is much higher. Lone-parenthood
is often temporary.
Increased unmarried mothers (fewer teen moms are married or put child up for adoption). 1931 – less
than half of 1% of lone-parent families were the result of births to unmarried women, in contrast to 22% in
Society focuses on individualism and self-gratification, not on responsibility. Children are separate from
marriage. Divorce rates have increased dramatically, support for parents and family benefits exist, cohabitation
has increased; non-marital sex is increasingly accepted.
Most of the figures on lone parenthood are based on numbers for the total population in Canada or on
studies of the white majority. 2001 Census – higher proportion of black children aged 1-14 lived with one
parent (46%) than Canadian children in general (18%). 35% of Aboriginal children lived in single-parent homes
compared to 17% of all children according to Stats Canada 2008.
Table 9.1 – Lone-Parent Families in Canada, 1991-2006
Year Total Lone-Parent Families Male Parent Female Parent
No. % No. % No. %
1991 953,640 12.9 165,240 17.3 788,395 82.7
1996 1,137,510 14.5 192,275 16.9 945,230 83.1
2001 1,311,190 15.7 245,825 18.7 1,065,360 81.3
2006 1,414,100 15.9 281,406 19.9 1,132,694 80.1
THE PATH OF SINGLE PARENTHOOD
1951 – 66.5% of lone parents were widowed; only 1.5% never legally married
2006 – 29.5% of lone parents divorced, 3.1% in 1951. Divorce laws changed in 1981 and 1986, now easier and
Life patterns of never-married, divorced and widowed female lone parents vary and may have less in
common than imagined. Poor, never-married women with several children; older professional women who
have chosen to be lone parents; widowed men and women; divorced. Differences – include age at which person became a single parent, likelihood of marriage/remarriage, current life circumstances, impact of life-cycle stage
when single parenthood began.
How Long Does it Last?
Ends – remarriage, cohabitation, change of custody, independence of children
Teen moms usually wait for a year or more to marry, after child’s birth; more likely to remain single.
46% enter common-law relationships. More likely to separate, divorce or marry more than once.
Between 2001-2006, just over 1 million Canadians went through separation or divorce, just under 1
million from a de facto union. 50% of divorced and 60% of separated couples had children.
Widows remain lone parents the longest, least likely to remarry.
For most children, lone parent family lasts less than 5 years.
Single Parenthood and the Life Cycle
Children need a different kind of nurturing than a spouse needs. Traditionalists believe the marriage union is
necessary first stage in healthy family formation.
Age of parents.
Teen parents do not have realistic plans for future employment, have not finished education.
Later pregnancy more likely to support self and child. Young women growing up in poor families more likely
to become teen moms and live in poverty. The older single woman – pregnancy is not accidental but result of
woman’s wish to become a parent.
Divorced/widowed need to deal with pain and anger that surrounds end of marriage. Widows have
greatest chance of being financially stable.
Since children’s needs and developmental tasks correspond to the different stages, they will make
different emotional and financial demands on their parents.
THE QUALITY OF LIFE
Single Parents and Economic Survival
Mothers Allowance established in Ontario in 1920, strictly defined who was eligible for financial help.
Rules have since softened.
National Child Benefit established by federal government in 1998 to provide additional support to
children up to age 18. Goal – to reduce child poverty, reduce overlap in assistance programs, encourage parents
to find jobs.
Female lone parents at risk for poverty. Many depend on welfare or family benefits because of lower
education levels. Widows benefit from pension plans and usually have older children. Employment and income
of lone mothers has increased between 1980-2000; due to changes in policies around social assistance.
Study of incentives found that childcare and transportation problems as well as physical and emotional
disabilities were barriers to employment. An international survey by the Organisation for Economic Co-
operation and Development (OECD) ranked Canada last among developed countries as to access to childcare.
Canadian families also pay among the highest childcare fees in the world.
Employed or studying mothers, 50-60% use regulated daycare (higher in Quebec – introduced $5/day
regulated childcare for 4-yr-old children, now $7 and all children under 12 are eligible for care).
Tensions from juggling work, family and daycare, more tired and overloaded and worry childcare plans
will fall through. Generally can’t work longe