Some adults may like 'family diversity,' but it's not so great in providing a good future for children.
Figures from the 2011 census showing a continued decline in married couple families and a hefty rise in lone parent and common-law arrangements are "sad and worrisome" and "nothing to celebrate," say pro-family organizations.
Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF) assistant director Peter Murphy said the "handwriting is on the wall" as the census reveals the number of common law couples has risen 13.9 per cent since 2006 and lone parent families have increased eight per cent.
The number of children living with married parents declined from 68.4 per cent to 63.6 per cent from 2006 to 2011, Statistics Canada reported in a Sept. 19 release of data on family structures.
But when the figures are examined over 50 years, the picture shows a dramatic decline from around 90 per cent of married couple families in 1961. A steep decline began in the mid-1970s.
The media is trying to make "diversity" in family structure seem like a good thing, Murphy said in an email interview.
"It takes a man and a woman to conceive a child and, as the social sciences have told us repeatedly, it is in the best interest of children to be raised by a man and a woman united in marriage."
"Study after study has found that the advantaged child is the one raised by one woman and one man in a stable, committed relationship," he said. "This is because God, our creator, has made the union of man and woman fruitful and this fruitfulness is not limited to physical procreation."
The Institute of Marriage and Family Canada (IMFC) warned the family-related data outlines an "alarming trend" that will lead to greater child poverty.
IMFC research and communications manager Andrea Mrozek said she was disturbed by the "chirpy" response to the troubling data in the mainstream news media.
CNS PHOTO | REUTERS
Pope John Paul offered a better understanding of life and family than that most widely available in Western society.
Mrozek said the IMFC has shown in its research that family breakdown is linked to poverty.
The 2006 census showed 8.2 per cent of married couples were in poverty compared with 16 per cent of lone-parent families headed by men and 32.2 per cent of lone-parent families headed by women.
The media seemed to be applauding the growth of more diverse, progressive family circumstances, she said.
The coverage was "superficial," she said. It missed the real story of demographic and family decline that is "devastating" for Canada as a country and for every individual touched by family breakdown.
Most social science research in the U.S. has found that the married couple raising children biologically related to them is the best for children on a range of outcomes, Mrozek said.
On everything from poverty levels, to drug or alcoholic abuse, trouble with the law, mental health, early sexual activity and future success at maintaining stable marriages themselves those raised in traditional two-parent homes fare better, she said. This message has not reached most policy advisors in Canada.
COLF agrees the research shows married couple families raising children biologically-related to them have the best outcomes.
"The social cost of equating 'alternative' parenting relationships with the traditional family has already had a profoundly negative impact on society," Murphy said.
"To begin with, children raised in non-traditional family structures are statistically more vulnerable to abuse and to developmental and social problems of various kinds. Both the children themselves and society in general end up paying a high price."
Like Mrozek, Murphy is concerned that Canada's aging population and dwindling number of working taxpayers make the cost of family breakdown "increasingly difficult to bear."
"If we are serious about wanting to forestall further societal damage, we need to embrace God's vision for human sexuality and the human family - the vision so beautifully articulated by Blessed John Paul II in his Theology of the Body."
"Healthy families make for healthy citizens," he said. "At every level of society, we need to make support for the traditional family a priority."