Family structures can sometimes be the source of conflicts or have an uncommon constellation. But for most French people, the concept of family is synonymous with happiness. At more than 7.8 million, the most common type of family in France in 2018 was composed of a couple without children. However, like in other Western countries, traditional family models have been through a variety of transformations in the past years.
Families in France
On average, a French woman has slightly less than two children, which makes France one of the champions of birth rates in Europe. Nevertheless, the majority of French families are made up of an only child, to the detriment of large families, which have been declining since the 1990s.
Although the nuclear family model remains in the majority (76.6 percent), family structures tend to diversify. As most children in France were living with a couple in 2018, there were also around three million children who were raised by single parents. That year, more than 2.4 million households in France were composed of a single mother with children, compared to 553,660 for a single father with children. Thus, the family seems to evolve at the same time as society and women tend to raise children alone more frequently than men.
The evolution of family structures
In 2020, the number of marriages amounted to over 148 thousand, which is the lowest number of marriages ever recorded.
Nowadays, even though most French people are still traditionally attached to the marital institution, it is no longer considered a necessary step in making a home together. Not only are the majority of children born out of wedlock, but the average age at the first marriage has increased by about seven years for men and women between 2004 and 2019.
On May 17, 2013 France became the 9th European country to allow gay marriage. Only a few days after the legalization, the first same-sex marriage was celebrated in the southern city of Montpellier. In 2019, the number of same-sex marriages in France reached 6,000 marriages, with the highest number recorded in 2015 with 10,522 nuptials. When asked whether children would be happy if raised by two fathers or two mothers, about 70 percent of respondents answered in the affirmative.
But not everyone fits together like a pair of socks. In 2018, there were about 62 thousand recorded divorces, which largely concerned marriages lasting four to nine years. This phenomenon suggests that the longer one is married in France, the least one is willing to get divorced. But what happens after a divorce? Most (47 percent) try to cope with alimony charges, new housing solutions, as well as obtaining custody of their children, others remarry.
Regardless of the structure of the family, there are other anchored values when it comes to the upbringing of children or the relationship between family members. When young French people were asked about the relationship with their grandparents, most of them suggested that their favorite activity was to hear anecdotes about their past, which is equally the main ways of French parents to pass on values to their children. While a strong family bond seems essential, parents have emphasized other crucial values: independence, kindness and striving for success in life.
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