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2006 Census: Family portrait: Continuity and change in Canadian families and households in 2006: National portrait: Individuals

Higher proportion of children aged 4 and under with mothers in their forties

Women in Canada have been delaying childbearing as they pursue other interests, including education and employment opportunities. The 2006 Census found an upward shift in children aged 4 and under who had mothers in their forties, and a downward shift for children in the same age group living with younger mothers.1

In 2001, 7.8% of children aged 4 and under had mothers who were between the ages of 40 and 49. By 2006, this proportion had increased to 9.4%.

In contrast, in 2001, 11.8% of children in this age group had mothers who were 24 and under. By 2006, this proportion had declined to 9.9%.

Table 3 Distribution by age groups and census family status of mothers of children aged 4 years and under, Canada, 2001 and 2006

The ages at which women are getting married and having children has been increasing over the past several decades. In 2003, women on average were 28.5 years old when they were first married, compared with less than 23 years old throughout most of the 1960s.2 Their average age when they had their first child in 2003 was 28.0 years, up from 23.6 years during most of the 1960s.

This aging trend among mothers of young children, which translates into a larger age gap between mothers and children, can be observed for married, common-law and lone mothers. The distribution, however, is slightly older for married mothers of children aged 4 and under. The most common age group for married mothers of young children was 30 to 34 years, while it was 25 to 29 years for lone mothers and mothers living common-law.

In 2006, for 28.3% of the 1.7 million young children aged 4 and under with lone mothers, these mothers were under age 25, although it decreased from 2001 (31.7%). In comparison, 18.2% of young children had common-law mothers in this age group, and 3.9% of children aged 4 and under had young married mothers in 2006.

The diversity in ages of mothers and family structures of young children reflects the variety of lifecycle stages and living arrangements. The heterogeneity of these environments suggests that children could have very different childhood and family experiences depending on the circumstances of their early years. Lone parents, and especially lone-mother families, are more likely to face financial difficulties than other family structures.

According to 2001 Census data, the majority of young lone mothers aged 25 to 34 with less than a high school education experienced low income in 2000.3 Future census results on the income and education of lone mothers will be able to show if this trend continues.

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