Can you ‘choose your family’? Younger Canadians say yes, older ones say you get what you get

Can you ‘choose your family’? Younger Canadians say yes, older ones say you get what you get

Regardless of age, most are satisfied with the time they spend with family

February 15, 2016 – What is a family? Is it the people you’re directly related to by blood or marriage? Or is it something more malleable – a collection of people you pick for yourself?

As Canadians in many parts of the Angus Reidcountry celebrate Family Day, a new poll from the Angus Reid Institute suggests they’re split – largely along age lines – when it comes to these questions.

Moreover, while most Canadians say they spend the “right” amount of time with their kin, one-in-three say they don’t spend enough.

Key Findings:

  • Canadians 55 and older are more likely to say family members aren’t the people you choose, but are born to (61% do so).
  • Younger Canadians (aged 18-34), have a different view of “family”. The majority (64%) are of the opinion that you can choose your family members

Family time: are Canadians getting enough?

Regardless of how they define family, chances are Canadians are relishing any extra time they’ll spend with their own over the Family Day long weekend.

The vast majority either spends the right amount (64%) or not enough (33%). Just four per cent of Canadians say they spend too much time with their families.

Younger Canadians are more likely to fall into the “too much” camp, but the number who do still amounts to fewer than one-in-ten (8%):

Angus Reid

When it comes to the family units, couples living with their kids are least likely to say they’re spending too much face time with their kinfolk. For adult Canadians at home with mom and dad, or siblings, the feeling is quite the opposite. Members of this group (which includes many 18-34-year-old respondents) are especially likely to say they spend too much time with the clan; a reflection perhaps, of the desire to make a nest of their own:

Angus Reid

And while a constant part of the national debate on family and society centers on worries over increasing numbers of Canadians living on their own, some comfort may be taken in the knowledge that those who do reside solo also pine for their nearest and – perhaps dearest – relations. As noted in the preceding graph – fully two-in-five say they don’t spend enough time with their families.

Related or selected: Who’s in your family?

This Angus Reid Institute survey asked Canadians to choose between two broad, opposing ideas about family. On one side was the argument that those you’re related to by blood or marriage are the people you must try to build relationships with – in other words, “you can’t choose your family.”

On the other side was the argument that the relationships one builds with friends can be more important than with blood relations – in other words, “you can choose your family.”

Given the choice, a narrow majority (52%) choose the latter. As previously mentioned, responses vary significantly across age groups:

Angus Reid

When it comes to choosing your family versus accepting what you have, men and women are living in different spheres. Men are more likely to say “you can’t choose your family,” while women are more likely to say family membership can come via invitation. Formal education experience is a factor too. Those with high school or less tend to say family membership isn’t a choice. Those who’ve gone to university or have a technical school education tend to say it is. (See comprehensive tables for greater detail).

As seen in the following graph, living arrangements aren’t a significant driver of opinion on this issue. Regardless of the family unit in which people live – most are evenly split – with one exception: adults living with their parents or siblings:

Angus Reid

Click here for the full report including tables and methodology

Click here for comprehensive data tables

Click here for the questionnaire used in this survey


Shachi Kurl, Executive Director: 604.908.1693

Tags assigned to this article: