Love & Marriage in America: Where Does Having Children Stand?

having children

Pew Research Center’s FactTank: News in the Numbers recently published, “5 facts on love and marriage in America.” There are some interesting figures. The first fact has to do with the top reason Americans say they marry. Where does having children rank? Check it out.

Very Important Reasons to get Married

In response to the survey item which asked, “ ____ is a very important reason to get married,” most –  88%  – cited for love.  Other percentages include:

81%: making a lifelong commitment

76%:  companionship

49%:  having children

30%:  a relationship recognized in a religious ceremony

28%:  financial stability

23%: for legal rights and benefits

Notice that just about half cited having children.  I find this encouraging – that the pronatalist notion that people marry to have children is not strongly reflected here.

Keys to a Successful Marriage

Pew Research also asked, “____ is key to a successful marriage.” On this item, the percentages broke down this way:

64%: having shared interests

61%: satisfying sexual relationship

56%: sharing house hold chores

47%: shared religious beliefs

43%: having children

42%: adequate income

16%: agreement on politics

“Having children” falls at the less than half mark here as well.  Like the first children-related response category above, pronatalist ideas about what marriage is “supposed” to be about – the raising of children – is certainly not reflected in this item as strongly as it would have been in generations past.

The percentage who responded “sharing household chores” brought to mind what I found in my interviews with happily married childfree couples for Families of Two, and in communicating with hundreds of childfree couples since.  Many childfree couples talk about how they share domestics, and it does not always fall into “traditional” roles, e.g., one partner cooks and cleans, the other does fix- it things.

I would also wager that regarding a very important reason they marry, most childfree respondents in this survey would have fallen into the “for love,” “making a lifelong commitment” or “companionship” response categories.

Another observation: I wonder if they were surveyed again today, post our most recent presidential election, if the percentage for “agreement on politics” would be higher – ?!  What do you think?

Childfree or not, how would you answer these two items?








2 thoughts on “Love & Marriage in America: Where Does Having Children Stand?

  1. I thought this was a very thought-provoking post. I agree that 43% must be lower than it would’ve been in past generations but it is still higher than I thought it would be for some reason. It’s just hard to picture parents accrediting the success of their marriage to their kids! Great article.

    1. Thanks! Interesting numbers. Re the 43% I know what you mean, but most couples do end up making parenthood a huge part of their marital experience, and I can see how it could be seen to contribute to the success of their marriage. The numbers might be even more interesting if the survey respondents were separated into childfree, parents, want-to-be-parents in the future, and the childless sample groups to see how their responses might vary.

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