Is a family necessary a father, a mother and their child(ren)? Of course not, even if some think it is, especially in the West, where this has been the traditional model for a very long time. The polygamist family is also a reality, and so is the “Indian extended family” with multiple generations and families living under one roof, with the grand-parents mostly raising the children, cousin kids calling each other brother-sisters. And how was the family structure 30 000 years ago? Should it matter? It actually might, since scientists are now saying that our current behavior is widely inherited from the time where our forefathers were hunter-gatherers. We continue eating like food is not going to be available at any point of time. And we continue being sexually tempted by other people, as we are not genetically programmed to stay with one partner our whole life – marriage and the family present structure and norms being undoubtedly cultural constructions. But I am becoming too philosophical.
Even in the West, whether we like it or not, the concept of family has been growing to encompass more than the “traditional” concept, like families with a single parent, with same-gender parents, without children or adopted ones, with divorced parents who recompose their families.
What about “mixed families”? The multi-racial families (with an American black mother and an American white dad for instance) are fairly well documented, and quite a contemporary topic (in the 2020s), especially in the US. 10.2% of American married-couple households were interracial or interethnic in 2012-2106 (vs 7.4% in 2000) (source). But in the United States, “mixed marriage” refers mainly to interracial or interfaith couples. Whereas some couples add one level of complexity beyond the race, when they come from different countries. More than ‘bi-racial, they are also ‘bi-national’ and ‘bi-cultural’. This how France defines “mixed couples”, who are “usually defined as combining national, cultural, racial or religious differences.” (source)
It is statistically very difficult to count the number of “mixed couples”. Still, let’s have a look at marriage data in France. In 2005, 43,266 French-foreign unions were concluded, representing 15.3% of all the marriages celebrated in France that year (vs 12% in 2000). 55.6% of marriages were concluded by French men, and 44.4% by French women. 56.9% of the foreign spouses had arrived from the African continent, mostly from North-Africa (much more men than women) and 24.8% were European (source).
So for the children of these 100,000 people who get mixed-married every year in France, and maybe 2 million people in the world*, I have written a book. To help parents discuss with their mixed kids the specificity of their families. Published soon!
* Thanks to some ambitious extrapolations, let’s estimate the number of cross-national marriages world-wide every year:
- 5 marriages per 1000 of population (the average in OCDE countries is 4.8 (source),
- World population in 2019: 7.7 billions à 40 million marriages,
- We remove 2/3rds of the marriages (for instance, in India, out of the yearly 10 million unions, the percentage of cross-national ones must be below 0.1%),
- We take 7% of the rest, and we get 1 million mixed marriages.