Families in Flux
All we have to do is look around us to realize that family life is in flux. The number of marriages is declining, and they are more unstable—nearly one in two ending in divorce. Couples are increasingly choosing to live together and raise their children outside the confines of marriage. An ever-higher percentage of children go through the separation of their parents and experience complicated family histories in which each parent enters into a new union after separation.
What are the effects of these changes on Canadians' lives? To answer this question, Dr. Céline Le Bourdais, an internationally respected demographer specializing in research on family change, plans to explore key stages in family life. Her work will be based on studies and surveys conducted in Canada, the United States and some European countries. These studies involved tracking individuals' lives as they evolved and make it possible to interpret the changes observed in light of the specific contexts.
As chairholder, Le Bourdais will cover a variety of subjects, including the period of transition from adolescence to adulthood. She will try to document this key stage and determine to what extent the lengthening of the transition period is linked to the difficulties faced by young people in entering the workforce. She also wants to assess the degree to which greater marital instability affects children's lives. How many among them see their parents separate? How many will end up living in blended families and perhaps have to share family resources with half-sisters and half-brothers? How many will gradually lose contact with their fathers after the separation and will not receive any child support on a regular basis? All these situations need to be analyzed, measured and quantified before policies geared to the new family realities can be developed.
To conduct her study, Le Bourdais will have to set up a full-fledged statistical research laboratory that will become a unique centre for training and exploration in family and social policy.