Themes common to the week’s readings are family, family structure, and the ‘changing’ demographics of Canadian families. Bradbury starts us off by examining not only the changing family structure of Canadian society, but also the changing definition of what a family is. Bradbury find that a single-parent family is not a new structure by any means.1 Schlesinger backs up this claim. He states that single-parent families are not a new phenomena, but that there is only a newly found interest in identifying and labelling these households.2 The focus on family, whatever that may mean to somebody, was going through a transformation in the early decades of the 20th century. It was becoming more and more modern, yet still bound by its Victorian predecessor. Also undergoing change in this time was the social attitudes towards homosexuals. Gidney claims that early Canada was rife with the solidifying of gender and sexual norms, that cemented the expectations of heteronormativity.3 The consequences of this are still being dealt with. It does not take long to build a societal expectation, but it does take a very long day to break one down. Nett finishes off the readings by discussing various ‘facts’ about Canadian family life. It is Nett’s opinions that many things we take as fact are actually just myths. What a Canadian family actually is is very different from the ideal family Canadian family that people strive for.4
1) Bradbury, “Single Parenthood in the Past: Canadian Census Categories, 1891-1951 and the ‘Normal’ Family,” Historical Methods, 33, 4 (Fall, 2000): 211-217.
2) Schlesinger, Benjamin. “The One-Parent Family in Canada: Some Recent Findings and Recommendations.” The Family Coordinator 22, no. 3 (1973): 305-09. doi:10.2307/582614.
3) Gidney, “Under the President’s Gaze: Sexuality and Morality at a Canadian University During the Second World War,” Canadian Historical Review, 82, 1 (March, 2001): 36-54.
4) Nett, Emily M. “Canadian Families in Social-Historical Perspective.” The Canadian Journal of Sociology / Cahiers Canadiens De Sociologie 6, no. 3 (1981): 239-60. doi:10.2307/3340233.