National Post

Tuesday, November 24, 1998

Canadians are stressed, and families feel it
Southam-compas poll

Chris Cobb
Southam News

Modern Canadian parents feel they are under more financial and emotional stress than post-war families of 50 years ago, a new poll suggests.

A whopping 92% of people surveyed for a Southam News-Compas poll late last month said family stress is greater now than it was in the relatively simple, though hard-scrabble era of half a century ago. Only 4% felt they were under less stress than parents of that time.

In an age when Canadians are physically healthier and more robust than ever before, the Southam-Compas poll paints a picture of a society suffering from chronic emotional ill-health because of pressure on families.

The poll, conducted in conjunction with the National Foundation for Family Research and Education, reveals a national consensus about the pressures on families irrespective of age, level of education, region or gender. Respondents to the poll agreed that modern families face a variety of stresses, including lack of money, unstable jobs and lack of respect in society for the tasks of parenting.

Topping the stress list is divorce and family breakdown, followed in descending order by parents working too hard and for too many hours, insecure job conditions, excessive taxation, and lack of respect for the efforts parents put into raising children.

In Quebec, where divorce rates are higher than in other provinces, 78% see family life in crisis, as opposed to 69% in the rest of the country.

Ninety-four percent of respondents agreed that all these stresses are exacerbated in most single-parent families and there was some concern that children of these families may suffer emotional upset, limited success in the workforce or get into trouble with the law.

About 23% of respondents agreed that the emotional problems facing children of single parents were "extremely serious." This figure jumped to 32% when asked of Canadians with less formal education. Pollster Conrad Winn says the increase reflects the experience many poorer, less-educated people have had with family break up.

The poll indicates that Canadian adults under 30 years old, who are in the midst of establishing themselves in the workforce, are more concerned about job stability than older people.

Three-quarters of respondents in this younger age group said precarious employment was their biggest worry, compared with 66% in other age groups. The majority (60%) of respondents in their 30s and 40s said long working hours are the major cause of stress in families, while this was of relatively little concern to those under 30.

Canadians over 60 were most likely to see lack of respect for parenting as a major problem.

The poll was conducted Oct. 29-30 among 500 Canadians. Samples of that size are considered accurate to within 4.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Copyright Southam Inc.