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This chapter has provided an illustration of the diversity of Canadian families over time and space. We have seen that government policies sometimes shape Canadian families, and sometimes people form their families despite such policies. Families grow out of past traditions and new perspectives. Relations within and between families will often differ, depending on gender, race, ethnicity, economic situation, and sexual orientation.

Changes in Canadian families since the mid-1970s include fewer children, more working mothers, more divorces, and more people cohabitating. Exogamy has increased even among traditional endogamous people such as Jewish Canadians. In many respects, Canadian families are similar to families in other Western societies, such as the United Kingdom, France, and the United States. Households have shrunk throughout the West. Marriages are expressive and companionate, and though they may have an instrumental component, they are not formed for instrumental reasons alone. Women will often leave marriages that do not provide what they require. Family members, generally, are mobile and often distant. Overall, people's lives are more individualized: more fluid, varied, and idiosyncratic (see Jones, Marsden, and Tepperman 1992).

Enormous diversity has always characterized families in Canada, although the nature of this diversity has changed over the years. Canada has historically been a society of immigrants and a society of regions. The new immigration policy has increased the ethnic mélange of the Canadian population and in so doing dramatically shifted the variety of Canadian families. It also increased exogamy and mixing, leading to the creation of new, blended cultures, in an already multicultural population.


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Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaMarriage: Cultural AspectsCanada - Defining Families, Trends In Marriage, Cohabitation Versus Marriage, Divorce, Variations On The Dominant Pattern