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Changing families and households

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In this lesson, students complete an independent research assignment from which they will gain an understanding of how Canadian families have changed. They will analyse and interpret data about changing family structures in Canada from selected editions of the Canada Year Book from 1867 to 1967. Based on their research, they will compare different parts of Canada and different periods over the century. They will come to conclusions about the effects of industrialization on Canadian society, particularly on the structure of the typical Canadian family.


  • To understand and apply the mechanics of simple statistical analysis.
  • To effectively locate, analyse and interpret assigned statistics and other data from selected editions of the Canada Year Book between 1867 and 1967.
  • To identify the structure of the Canadian family and its patterns of change in a given historical period.  
  • To calculate percentage changes in specific data.
  • To make inferences and draw conclusions based on research and analysis.
  • To make assumptions about economic factors contributing to patterns and changes.
  • To explain the effects of urbanization on families, focusing on economic factors and industrialization.
  • To appreciate the value and application of statistics.

Suggested grade level and subject areas

History, Family Studies, Geography


50 to 60 minutes for the introduction (steps 1 to 7)
50 to 60 minutes to complete Student worksheet 2 (step 8)

Vocabulary (as used in the context of this lesson)

Conjugal condition – marital status.  
Demographic change – change in a population with respect to patterns of births, deaths, age, gender, marital status, urban and rural residency, country of origin, mother tongue, etc.
Dwelling – a set of living quarters in which a person or a group of people resides.
Family – people living in the same dwelling and related by blood or marriage.
Household – any number of people living within the same dwelling. They did not need to be related to one another.


Canada Year Book resources

1916/1917 (PDF)

1927/1928 (PDF)

1947 (PDF)

1957/1958 (PDF)

1967 (PDF)


  • Chapter 14, page 207.

Current statistics at

  • Learning resources > Teachers > Canada at a Glance > Demography > Table 3: Census families.

Classroom instructions

  1. Present the following outline to the class:
    1. You will be working with online statistics to uncover information about Canadian families in the period from 1867 to 1967.
    2. Each of you will conduct research and write a short essay describing your findings about changes in Canadian families.
  2. Have students look at some current Statistics Canada information about families in Canada. A good resource for this information is Canada at a Glance, published annually by Statistics Canada, and the current Canada Year Book 2007.
  3. Have students speculate about possible family structures at the time of Confederation and changes over the next century. The challenge for students is to use information from the Canada Year Book in order to reach conclusions about changes in family size and structure and how these changes might be connected to urbanization and industrialization.
  4. Hand out student worksheets 1 and 2 and the evaluation rubric.
  5. Review Student worksheet 1 and outline questions students should consider when analysing and interpreting statistics from the Canada Year Book.
  6. Clarify assignment expectations, rubrics and deadlines. This activity is designed as an independent study, but the lesson can easily be completed in pairs.
  7. Review the terminology and vocabulary for the project.
  8. Have students complete Student worksheet 2. Where needed, help them find assigned data in the Canada Year Book. Have them complete Part D using the previous parts of the assignment as a model structure. This will test their analytical skills.


Encourage students to examine data on other factors that could have influenced family structure over the 100-year period, such as trends in labour, types of production and their economies of scale, and growth of service industries.

Students may wish to investigate changes in farm and non-farm occupations and show the impact of these factors on family structure.