The nuclear family has traditionally defined the structure of the average American family unit. The nuclear family consists of a married couple and their children living together in the same house. In the post-modern era, the nuclear family no longer accurately represents the average American household. The number of couples in the United States without any children is increasing, and the dynamics of couples with and without children are very different.
Trend Toward Childlessness
More and more couples are choosing to remain intentionally childless. The trend of married women of childbearing age, defined as being between 15 and 44, making this choice is rising. According to the United States Census Bureau, in 2010, 19.2 percent of women 35 to 44 years of age had never had children. Percentages are higher in younger age brackets. These figures represent an increase over the past several decades, according to an article by Robert D. Plotnick, "Childlessness and the Economic Well-being of Older Americans," published in the Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences.
Childless Couples Have Higher Education
Childless couples with dual incomes are, on average, better educated than couples with children. According to the 1998 census report, 30 percent of childless couples both have college degrees, as compared to 24 percent of those with children. Occupationally, 24 percent of childless couples have professional or managerial occupations, as compared to 16 percent of those with children.
Spending Trends of Childless Couples
As would be expected, childless couples spend a good deal more of their income in certain categories than those with children. On average, a childless couple spends 60 percent more on entertainment, 79 percent more on food and 101 percent more on dining out. Childless couples are also more likely to have pets, and those that do tend to spend a good deal more money on them.
Food Choices Change with Children
Typically, childless couples eat healthier than those with children, says Nicholas Bakalar in his article, "Diet: Childless Couples Eat Healthier, Study Finds," published by The New York Times. Childless households, even adjusting for other factors like income and age, consume a healthier diet than a household with children, eating more meat, fruits and vegetables per person. Households with children have a lower total consumption of meat and increased consumption of dairy, cereals and potatoes.
Impact of Children on Marital Satisfaction
One of the most telling differences between childless couples and those with children is the level of overall happiness. In his book, "Stumbling on Happiness," Professor Daniel Gilbert says martial happiness dramatically decreases after the birth of a child, and doesn’t increase until the last child has left home. A study performed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison concludes that the level of stress attributed to raising children has increased due to shifts in employment patterns. Working outside the home and receiving less support from extended family, as well as other factors, has increased the level of stress associated with raising children and decreased overall martial satisfaction as a result.
- United States Census: Fertility of American Women: 2010 -- Detailed Tables
- New York Times: Diet: Childless Couples Eat Healthier, Study Finds; Nicholas Bakalar
- Stumbling on Happiness; Daniel Gilbert
- Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences: Childlessness and the Economic Well-being of Older Americans; Robert D. Plotnick
- Photo Credit omgimages/iStock/Getty Images
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