Discussion Paper no. 01-1


Data on family change point to a greater flexibility in the entry and exit from relationships, a delay in the timing of family events, and a diversity of family forms. These changes have undermined the complementary-roles model as women gained equal opportunities in a variety of domains. Children have been affected such that their interests are no longer paramount in the structuring of adult lives. On the whole, the family has been de-institutionalized with less function and less power.

An interpretation of the changes suggests that the family has shifted from a unit of survival in which relations were based on division of labour to a unit of solidarity based on a sense of common identity and expressive relationships. Policies that would further push families in the direction of a collaborative model would promote new kinds of cohesion within families and at the societal level.