Quick Guide to Family Life in France

Published January 26, 2021
Family in France

The French value equality, unity, style, and sophistication, They take pride in the beauty and artistry of their country. However, family life in France is the backbone of French culture and community life. Family and happiness are synonymous in French culture.

The French Culture

French culture is a patchwork of regions and customs, and what's true for one region may not be accurate for another. France has been influenced by many cultures (Germans, Bretons, Flemish, Catalonians, Basques, etc.) and has made an effort to preserve the cultural traditions of its smaller regions and communities. "Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity" reflect French cultural values, and this motto is part of the French national heritage. The French culture has a laissez-faire philosophy about life, and this philosophy extends to family.

Family Life in France

The average family in France enjoys a work and family life balance that's one of the world's best. The French have more time to spend on leisure, socializing, sleeping, and eating than anywhere else in the world.

Mealtime Is Family Time

The French are known for their leisurely lunches and daily visits to the boulangerie (bakery), the épicerie (grocery), and the boucherie (butcher shop). The French love their food and enjoy their families, which means that mealtime is prime time for family socializing. The French enjoy food and family so much that extended-family meals and socializing are common weekend happenings.

Family dining outdoors in France

France Is Child Friendly

France is child friendly. Children are encouraged to play outdoors, join their parents in evening events - from food and music festivals to meals out at restaurants. Children are also expected to take part in family conversations. The French do things together as a family. However, like Latin and Italian families, it's normal for French family members to become very vocal and even scream at each other if there's a problem.

French Parents

French mothers are the head of the household. From a very early age, children know what's expected of them and what's unacceptable behavior. A French mom has an authoritative parenting style and leaves little doubt about who's in charge of the family. You'll seldom see an unruly toddler being coddled or a picky child being placated in France. French children are obedient to their parents and are, by and large, raised to be independent, polite, poised, and confident.

French Children Have Freedom

French children may not have much flexibility concerning behavior and manners. Still, they have more freedom than most children to socialize on their own terms. French parents view their children's independence as a positive. They believe the combination of minimal management and the threat of guaranteed punishment helps their children learn to be self-disciplined and focused.

French Family Structure

Even with increased geographic mobility, most French people continue to live in the region where they grew up and interact with their extended families. However, the French family structure has changed over the years.

Children running down a French street

The Evolution of the French Family Structure

Traditionally, the French family structure included everyone living in the same household whether they are related or not, extended families and nuclear families. However, more recently, couples wait until they're older to get married, wait longer to have children, and have fewer children. The traditional family structure has also shifted to reflect single-parent households or civil unions known as PACS.

  • On average, a woman first marries in her mid-30s, men in their late-30s, and couples have one or two children.
  • Large families have been in decline since the 1990s, and single-parent households are on the rise.
  • There are more single mothers than fathers.
  • Fathers' role in the family is becoming more important.
  • More parents share custody of their children, and more children live in a blended family or with a single-parent.
  • Many couples choose to live together as an alternative to marriage.
  • There's generally an open attitude related to premarital sex, and it's common for unmarried couples to have children.
  • According to statista.com, from 1994 to 2019 over 60% of French children were born out of wedlock.
  • Most who marry choose partners from the same region and religious affiliation.

French Family Values and Traditions

Regardless of the family structure, children traditionally maintain relationships with their grandparents and their extended family. In doing so, they hear anecdotes about their past, which is one way the French pass on family values and traditions to their children. Parents also emphasize the values of independence, kindness, and striving for success in life. Most parents would say they pass on these values and traditions to their children through their daily activities and daily attitude, which set an example for their children.

Defining the French Family Life

Before the 1970s it would have been easier to define family life in France, just as it would have been easier to explain the family life in any culture. Family structure and traditions grow and evolve, and what once was the traditional French family model has slowly changed over the decades.

Quick Guide to Family Life in France