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Lone Parent Families


A census family is composed of a married or common-law couple, with or without children, or of a lone parent living with at least one child in the same dwelling. Couples can be of the opposite sex or of the same sex.

Why This Matters

“There has been a notable increase in the number of lone-parent families with children—from 289,000 in 1976 to 698,000 in 2014. Lone-parent families accounted for 20% of families with children aged less than 16, up from 9% in 1976. Of note, lone mothers accounted for 81% of lone-parent families in 2014 (compared with 86% in 1976).” Reference: Statistics Canada (2015) Lone-parent families

“In addition to changes in the marital status of lone parents, the predominance of female lone parents has varied considerably over time. While lone parents have always been more likely to be female, in the early decades of the 20th century, relatively high maternal mortality contributed to proportionally more male lone parents, compared with later in the century. By 1996, the proportion of children living with a male lone parent reached a record low of 15.5%, compared with 28.1% in 1941, and an estimated 40% in 1901.

“Children living in lone-parent families in a census year may have more complex living arrangements and custodial circumstances. Trends toward more joint custody following divorce have increased the chance of a father having custody of a child on Census Day. Reflecting this trend, the proportion of children in lone-parent families living with a male lone parent has recently risen, from 15.5% in 1996 to 20.1% in 2011.” Reference: Statistics Canada (2015) Lone-parent families: The new face of an old phenomenon

Since 2011, with the percentage of local lone parent families close to or exceeding the Provincial (and presumably) national average (i.e. 20% are lone parent families), these trends have implications in terms of the level and type of policy, social and community supports for families living in the greater Peterborough area.

Measurement and Limitations

‘Census family structure’ refers to the combination of relatives that comprise a census family. Classification on this variable considers the presence or absence of: married spouses or common-law partners and children.

Data Source

Statistics Canada, 2016 Census of the Population

Statistics Canada, 2011 Census of the Population


Lone Parent Families in the Sustainable Development Goals

Click on the SDG to reveal more information