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Published November 10, 2011, 11:30 PM

No children necessary: Kids no longer a priority for many couples

Raising a family is no longer a priority for many couples, according to the Pew Research Center. Having children may play a role in marriage but is frequently not the primary reason for getting married. And couples increasingly feel that having a family is not essential to finding fulfillment, the study shows.

By: By Bruce Mccracken, divorce360.com, INFORUM

Raising a family is no longer a priority for many couples, according to the Pew Research Center. Having children may play a role in marriage but is frequently not the primary reason for getting married. And couples increasingly feel that having a family is not essential to finding fulfillment, the study shows.

Of 2,020 people surveyed about nine issues that can make successful marriages, about 42 percent of the respondents listed children as one of the most important aspects of in the 2007 research. Another 29 percent called children “rather important,” and another 27 percent said children were “not important” at all to a successful marriage.

On the list of nine things that make up a successful marriage, having children was ranked as eighth in importance. The numbers in 2007 had declined from two thirds in 1990 who considered having children as important to marriage _ ranking it third in importance on the nine-point list.

That’s not surprising to Joey and Wendy Nelson of Addison, Texas, who have been married for nine years. It’s their first marriage, and both had divorced parents. The Nelsons can foresee adding children to their family, but of the nine categories offered in the research, they assigned children as being ranked sixth in importance.

More important, according to the study were: faithfulness, which topped the list at 93 percent; followed by sexual compatibility at 70; sharing chores, 62; adequate income, 53; good housing, 51; shared religious beliefs, 49; shared tastes and interests, 46; having children and agreement on politics at 12 percent.

Carl Pickhardt, Ph.D., author and psychologist, in Austin, Texas, said the shift may reflect two changes: “parents placing more importance on personal and marital happiness, and seeing parenthood as less fulfilling.”

Couples under the age of 40 often experienced their parents’ divorce, which could be an underlying factor in opting out of parenthood, he said.

“Adult children of divorce tend to ‘think twice’ about starting a family. With cause, they fear they might not only divorce as their parents did, but put their own child through an experience similar to what they endured,” he said. “There are insecurities that adult children of divorce wrestle with: sometimes with denial; sometimes with determination.”

The Nelsons see one or two children as likely in their future. Joey Nelson, 30, a government program administrator currently attending college, explains, “At this point, we are basically saying that we would have children. What continues to change our mind is the instability of the economy. If your job can be unstable, you do not want to bring kids into a situation like that.”

His wife, Wendy, 31, a teacher, adds, “When he finishes getting his degree, I will go to graduate school and it will be a better time for kids when I am finished.”

Caution is apparent in couples considering expanding their family. Bringing children into the mix can complicate a marriage, even one like the Nelsons that has a track record of happiness. Adult children of divorced families are more keenly aware that marriages are vulnerable to outside pressures.

“My parents did not have much money and were not able to do a lot of things for me,” recalls Joey. “I want to be able provide for my children better than my parents were able to provide for me.”

But, he adds, “You must always be confident that you will succeed,” says Joey. “If you think of failure, failure is going to pretty much happen.”

Pickhardt suggests that currently, there is more of a view of marriage “as a relationship to provide for and nurture the adults more than to create a family with children. He added, “Young adults today may be more motivated to pursue occupational advancement than be dedicated to the work of raising a family. Many are reluctant to give up the rewards of this personal freedom for the self-sacrifice it takes to become a parent.”

Advancing their education is the top priority for the Nelsons for the next few years. Having children is not part of the plan until after they both graduate.

“There are other things that we have to take care of first.” says Joey. “When we feel more comfortable, things could change then.”

Part of his reasoning is simple: “My dad was always working, so he was always gone,” recalls Joey. “He worked a full-time job and did a lot of side work, so he was often gone until 12 o’clock in the morning. I don’t want that to be me.”

Wendy agrees, “If we are in school and have a child, we could not provide enough time and care for a child. We would not be able to give our all to anything that we are doing.”

Pickhardt says some couples just don’t want to “upset the marital status quo.”

Joey Nelson understands that: “Right now, if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it,” he says.

Expanding the family in the future would be a plus for the Nelsons, but not essential explains Wendy. “Children would be an added bonus, but not necessarily provide me with the fulfillment that I need.”

Visit divorce360.com for help before, during and after divorce.

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