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Life Stages: Family and Parenting

Many French people consider having children the fulfillment of married life. The typical French family consists of a father, mother, and one or two children. No cultural expectations in French society dictate how many children a family should have, although the average French family has 2.38 children. Many couples choose not to have children at all, instead pursuing their careers or alternate lifestyles.

Parental Partnership

Both parents have equal duties and responsibilities in the raising of children, and French women contribute equally in decision-making processes. Women between the ages of 15 and 49 represent about two-thirds of the workforce, and they contribute almost equally to the household income. Fathers and mothers jointly manage French household finances.

Typical family life in France includes one or both parents going to work, while children attend the maternelles or the lycées depending on their age. In the evening, the family may have dinner together. Traditionally, lunch was the main meal of the day, but these days dinner has become the main meal for most families. On Sundays, the whole family expects to gather for a meal together. They may also watch TV and play video games, go to movies or theme parks, or even attend seasonal festivals. Weekends and holidays may be spent skiing or visiting the country’s many beaches.

Preadolescent and adolescent children continue with their education, although many teenagers find employment around the age of 16, when they leave secondary school.

Accepted Practices

Divorce proves very common, and French culture accepts it. According to statistics, one in every three marriages dissolves. In the case of divorce, the judge may grant custody of children to either of the parents, or to a third party, in the best interests of the child.

Even though no formal cultural norms exist regarding duty to one’s parents, society expects children to respect their parents and help them out when the need arises. Family ties are stronger in France than in many other European countries, and many children regularly interact with their parents, frequently visiting them on weekends and holidays. With the disruptions and break-ups of many families, grandparents often end up as the ties that bind family members together. Most grandparents live in their own homes by themselves, though, and children and grandchildren frequently visit.