While you might happen to know several families with three or four children, large families are statistically quite rare. Those with three or more kids make up only 15 percent of all families in Quebec.
And yet, people often start out thinking they want more kids than they wind up having. In 2011, 32 percent of women in Quebec claimed that they wanted at least three children.
The discrepancy between how many children people want and how many they actually have may be related to household chores. After having their first or second child, parents realize how much work it takes to raise a family, in addition to holding down a job. “If the mom is taking on more chores than her partner, that can also affect whether she wants to have more kids,” says Laurence Charton, a researcher at the National Institute of Scientific Research.
The challenge of balancing work and family life can also lead parents to stop at one or two children. “I work as a nurse and have flexible hours, and my husband is selfemployed. That makes things easier,” says Sonia Vallée, mother of four. “When I think about big families where both parents work nine-to-five jobs, I don’t know how they do it!”
The times, they are a-changin’ . . .
The reality is, a lot has changed over the past century. In early1900s Quebec, large households were the norm. Families were encouraged—notably by the Church—to have children; one in five families had over 10 kids! Gradually, however, that number diminished. The period between 1970 and 1995 is of particular note, as women who became mothers during this time ultimately had the fewest children. “This was the generation that was confronted with divorce, the pill, and the economic crisis just as they were entering the job market,” explains Chantal Girard, a demographer at the Institut de la statistique du Québec. “These women were around 30 years old by the late 1980s. It wasn’t an easy time.” The result? More women chose not to have children, and those who did chose not to have as many.
It was slightly more common among women of the next generation to have three or more children. “This probably had something to do with the rebounding economy,” says Girard. A more manageable worklife balance, made possible by the introduction of subsidized childcare services, may also have been a factor. “As far as I know, there are no studies to prove this,” notes Girard, “but we can assume there’s a connection.”
Big families are more prevalent among First Nations and Inuit communities. In Quebec, 26 percent of Indigenous families have three or more children, compared to 15 percent of nonIndigenous households. The primarily Indigenous Nord-du-Québec region boasts the highest proportion of big families, which account for 34 percent of all households. “It’s very much a part of their culture,” explains sociologist Laurence Charton. In Indigenous communities, family is a matter of societal preference. As a result, Indigenous children are twice as likely as nonIndigenous children to live with at least one grandparent.
Photo : Maxim Morin
Source: Naître et grandir magazine, April 2018
Research and copywriting: Nathalie Côté
Scientific review: Claudine Parent, Professor at the School of Social Work and Criminology, Université Laval