Chapter 2 Family characteristics
Most of the 131 comments on family characteristics1 pertained to blended families or same-sex marriages.
Blended families • Nearly all participants who commented on blended families supported extending the current options. It was felt that broadening the response categories to include stepchildren would lead to a better understanding of family transformation. A few participants specified that it was important the child or children's relationship to both parents living in the household be clearly defined.
The complex nature and changing dynamics of blended families were raised during consultation. It was suggested that survey vehicles dealing with family content, such as the General Social Survey, might be better suited than the census to monitor changes in family structure.
Same-sex marriage • Legalized since 2003, numerous participants endorsed the introduction of a ‘same-sex married spouse' check box. Some recommended that the census use terminology parallel to opposite-sex married couples (e.g., opposite-sex married spouse of Person 1 / same-sex married spouse of Person 1). Others suggested adopting a standardized marital relationship response option applicable to opposite-sex and same-sex couples or deriving the information from existing response categories.
Adoption and foster children • Seventeen comments on family characteristics referred to adoption or foster children. In the case of adoption, the addition of a question on the census would help provide a more complete picture, better reflect the diversity of Canadian families and possibly lead to more services for adoptive families. There was also support for including a foster child response option on the census. Some concern, however, was expressed about the definition of family being narrow because adoption practices from different cultures are not reflected.
Shared custody • Of the comments received on this subject, several participants wanted the census to ask respondents about the number of children involved in shared custody situations and their living arrangements (i.e., distribution of time spent). It was also requested that a question about financial obligation in this regard be added.
Other areas of interest brought forth during consultation include the following:
- dependent children or parents
- polygamous relationships
- married couples living apart.
Family characteristics content • It was reported that data on family characteristics are important because they are used as a baseline in analysis.
The decision to include new questions and modify or eliminate existing census content takes into account a number of factors, such as consultation feedback, support to legislation, program and policy needs, data quality, costs, historical comparability, respondent burden, privacy, operational considerations and alternative data sources.
Relationship to Person 1 • The removal of ‘Grandparent of Person 1' and the combination of ‘Room-mate' with ‘Lodger and Boarder' was tested during the May 2008 content test.
Joint custody • More explicit instructions were provided for respondents in joint custody situations in the May 2008 questionnaire.
Blended families • A stepchild response category was included in the May 2008 quantitative test, recognizing this type of family structure question is better suited to a full family matrix approach which demonstrates the relationship between all members of a household.
Same-sex marriage • A same-sex married spouse response option was successfully tested in focus groups and during one-on-one interviews in the fall of 2007. Same-sex married couple terminology will continue to be examined leading up to the May 2009 Census Test.
Foster children • Following positive qualitative testing, the foster child response option will continue to be considered for the Relationship to Person 1 question and has since undergone further testing.
Family characteristics content on the census is used for evaluating and monitoring federal legislation, policies and programs including:
- Canada Child Tax Benefit
- Canada Pension Plan
- Old Age Security Program
Source: Statistics Canada, Catalogue no. 92-379-XIE, 2001 Census Handbook.
Question 6 (Relationship to Person 1) on the 2006 Census questionnaire (see Appendix 3) relates to family characteristics.
- The content consultation guide specified that same-sex married couple and stepchild response options were being considered for 2011. Consultation participants were asked their views on the proposed 2011 Census content changes.
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