Ktismatics

1 July 2007

Children in America

Filed under: Culture — ktismatics @ 10:43 am

In a recent survey, only 41% of American adults say that children are important in achieving a successful marriage, a huge drop from 1990 results. The top three factors were faithfulness (90%), good sex (70%), and sharing household chores (62%).

The new Pew survey also finds that, by a margin of nearly three-to-one, Americans say that the main purpose of marriage is the “mutual happiness and fulfillment” of adults rather than the “bearing and raising of children.”

At the same time, the most important factor contributing to survey respondents’ personal happiness and fulfillment was their relationships with their children. Relationships with spouses/partners came in a close second.

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56 Comments »

  1. It seems that the latest definitions of marriage have no particular emphasis on sexual intercourse (perhaps that’s a given?) and do not stress procreation either. These were two pillars of the definition when I got married (20 ya).

    What I hear now is : Sharing a household, sharing chores, having a good relationship with lots of mutual understanding, supporting one another, and IF there are kids, both participating as much as possible in their upbringing.

    More than the numbers, it’s the rate of change that is most surprising.

    p.s. I can’t get the survey link to work.

    Like

    Comment by samlcarr — 1 July 2007 @ 12:17 pm

  2. Link is fixed, thanks for the heads up.

    The survey results show that US marriage rates are dropping while out-of-wedlock childbirth is increasing — very much like Western Europe. An apparent anomaly: blacks and hispanics are more likely than caucasians to emphasize the importance of marriage, but they’re also more likely to have kids out of wedlock.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 1 July 2007 @ 1:37 pm

  3. What are we to make of the finding that, while people no longer regard children as essential to a good marriage, they find their relationships with their children so fulfilling? Perhaps there’s an increased separation between marriage and parenting as two separate sources of fulfillment.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 1 July 2007 @ 3:56 pm

  4. marriage and parenting as two separate sources
    I think this has been a reality for a long time. In the past, most unwed mothers became so by accident or because the boyfriend got cold feet at the wrong time. Now it seems to be a very deliberate choice, I want to have my kid without the complications of having to get married. One also sees more in the way of deliberately childless marriages.

    I don’t think it will take long for civil unions (for gays) to get legalised. The next step will be to allow adoption. Studies indicate that children of gay singles and of gay couples seem to do as well if not better than children brought up by heterosexual single mothers or in ‘stable heterosexual’ homes respectively.

    Eventually the roles of ‘father’ and ‘mother’ will be hard to differentiate in practice and this does raise interesting questions about stuff like oedipus and elektra.

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    Comment by samlcarr — 1 July 2007 @ 10:07 pm

  5. “Eventually the roles of ‘father’ and ‘mother’ will be hard to differentiate in practice and this does raise interesting questions about stuff like oedipus and elektra.”

    I think the blurring of roles is reflected in the importance ascribed to sharing household tasks. As I mentioned in the prior post, mothers have taken on more of the disciplinarian role (or perhaps they’re now recognized for a role they’ve played for a long time already). Today’s fathers generally aren’t as involved as mothers with the children, but I think they’re more active in childrearing than their own fathers were. I find it’s easy to get credit for being a good father, since expectations are generally pretty low. But I think mothers too are more involved with their kids than they were in the prior generation. On the other hand, family sizes are smaller. All in all, I think American kids of this generation get a much more intensive dose of parenting than the prior generation, at least among the middle class. That this is true even with more divorce does suggest that marriage and parenthood are becoming separate activities for adults.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 1 July 2007 @ 10:35 pm

  6. C.S. Lewis emphasizes the importance of happiness for marriage. He then uses this to debunk our notions that marriage is about gratification, particularly sexual gratificaiton. In other words, happiness is not to be equated with sexual indulgence or fulfilling sexual fantasies.

    So, the survey to me seems too vague to be useful, because each of us will define “happiness” in different ways. Or maybe that’s the real issue: Two people get together and get married and have two different ideas of what will make each other happy.

    Like

    Comment by Erdman — 2 July 2007 @ 9:49 am

  7. Surveys are rather blunt tools, but they do offer some broadly applicable data. It looks as though there was a spurt of change in the 80s an 90s that now seems to have somewhat stabilised. Perhaps moalities to drive the next wave of change for ‘gen next’ are being sought.

    I saw one study a couple years back that suggested that men wanted to be much more involved in child rearing but that the women were actively placing obstacles in the way! Some sort of a hiatus or uneasy equilibrium for the present?

    Anyhow, Lewis being childless and marrying very late in life may not be the ideal example though his ‘A Grief Observed’ really was very impressive. I think in his day the thinking was that most youthful romantic interest was simply the result of a hormonal imbalance!

    Like

    Comment by samlcarr — 2 July 2007 @ 11:12 am

  8. “In other words, happiness is not to be equated with sexual indulgence or fulfilling sexual fantasies.”

    C.S. Lewis seems to have been a kind of asexual figure, so I’m not sure I’d take his word for it. The survey respondents did rate good sex number two in importance for a happy marriage. It doesn’t say whether these respondents were in fact experiencing good sex, or whether their marriages were happy…

    “So, the survey to me seems too vague to be useful, because each of us will define “happiness” in different ways.”

    Herein Erdman again exposes his anti-empiricism.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 2 July 2007 @ 2:20 pm

  9. Oops, Sam already made this observation about Lewis — sorry.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 2 July 2007 @ 2:22 pm

  10. “Surveys are rather blunt tools, but they do offer some broadly applicable data.”

    I think social norms significantly shape individuals’ expectations about what marriage and parenting ought to be like. In my parents’ era husbands weren’t really expected to have much involvement in household chores or parenting, nor were wives expected to contribute financially to the household. It’s not just that things change one marriage at a time — social pressures affect everyone’s marriage.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 2 July 2007 @ 2:28 pm

  11. biologically father and mother can be differentiated but from the kid’s standpoint that’s all preconsciousness, if the roles after the first couple of months cannot be differentiated then the uniqueness of father or mother will not resurface until the oedipal/elektra stage. So, how much does culture – marketing still hold on to the older definitions?

    Like

    Comment by samlcarr — 2 July 2007 @ 2:32 pm

  12. Further down the road, is the very concept of ‘nuclear family’ being replaced by something else?

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    Comment by samlcarr — 2 July 2007 @ 2:36 pm

  13. “if the roles after the first couple of months cannot be differentiated then the uniqueness of father or mother will not resurface until the oedipal/elektra stage.”

    I personally find it personally releasing not to be bound by role stereotypes — I’m a much better cook than mechanic, for example, and Anne is much better at knowing directions than I am. When I’m driving I’m perfectly willing to have her tell me where to go. For that matter, I’m happy to ride while she drives.

    You’d think that kids would identify with their same-sex parent anyhow, but I’m not sure that’s necessarily the case. I think our daughter sees herself as being more like me than like her mother.

    “So, how much does culture – marketing still hold on to the older definitions?”

    I think the message for some time has been that stereotype-busters are the innovators in society, the ones to be emulated. Now that I think of it, maybe the marketplace benefits from having two cooks in the house, two parents concerned with little Jimmy’s reading skills — it doubles the potential number of buyers for any commodity that used to be one-sex-only. On a related front, today I saw a young woman on a road crew wearing a bright pink hardhat. She looked fine!

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 2 July 2007 @ 2:55 pm

  14. Did she whistle at you?

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    Comment by Erdman — 2 July 2007 @ 3:15 pm

  15. No, but she went like this: ;)

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    Comment by ktismatics — 2 July 2007 @ 3:37 pm

  16. If only I’d a been there.

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    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 2 July 2007 @ 3:45 pm

  17. Then she’d have whistled for sure.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 2 July 2007 @ 3:51 pm

  18. Is there a way to do a “surprised bug eyes”? That too
    :)

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    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 2 July 2007 @ 4:09 pm

  19. Actually she didn’t wink at all — but she DID have the hat on!

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    Comment by ktismatics — 2 July 2007 @ 4:10 pm

  20. Boring woman. No spunk. Only brute strength. Scary and boring at the same time…booh.
    :)

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    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 2 July 2007 @ 4:40 pm

  21. No, actually she was cute, but she had work to do. Plus I’m too old for her. She did ask me about you though.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 2 July 2007 @ 4:58 pm

  22. A) Some like “old.”
    B) They all do :)

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    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 2 July 2007 @ 6:06 pm

  23. C) We lost power at work…I’m at home…weee…

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    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 2 July 2007 @ 6:06 pm

  24. The spirit of Enron lives on in LA.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 2 July 2007 @ 6:37 pm

  25. All I know is that Jason gets plenty of action from his babes on myspace! Hence, The Great Hesmaniak Heart Attack.

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    Comment by Erdman — 2 July 2007 @ 7:33 pm

  26. …so I told her Jason had given his heart to Christ. “That’s okay,” she said, “as long as his body isn’t spoken for.”

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    Comment by ktismatics — 2 July 2007 @ 7:42 pm

  27. Me:

    They just can’t resist. Jesus was the great teacher on how to treat the women. He knows everything. He had the balls to break all the necessary barriers of fear and timidity. He had the wisdom to know when to pull back on the reigns (when, dude, no matter how much of a sexy beast you are, she just ain’t interested). He had the tenderness and compassion to listen, melt and capture the heart of his “bride.” He just didn’t take that one last extra little all important step. But the “consummation” is coming.

    :)

    Like

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 2 July 2007 @ 9:01 pm

  28. BTW…Erdmanian Tornado…one of the “babes” you’re thinking of…is my SISTER. Cool it! A couple of them, however, are not!
    :)

    Like

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 2 July 2007 @ 9:03 pm

  29. The Gen Next seems to be more leaning towards parenting without marriage (but often with cohabitation) and becoming parents later rather than earlier, and that could be a response to both demographics and the economic stress of single parenting as youth. The nuclear family ties also seem to be stronger than in the past with young adults talking to their parents at least on a daily basis.

    From the perspective of conservative Christianity this is a disaster but at the same time it’s a reality and maybe this is another reason for the success now of the emerging church movement where acceptance and ‘membership’ is not tied as strongly to a bunch of social do’s and dont’s.

    Like

    Comment by samlcarr — 3 July 2007 @ 6:25 am

  30. BTW…Erdmanian Tornado…one of the “babes” you’re thinking of…is my SISTER. Cool it! A couple of them, however, are not!

    Easy, big fella’!!! I never brought your sister into this conversation. That’s some place I would never go….no matter how cute she might be…..

    Like

    Comment by Erdman — 3 July 2007 @ 6:39 am

  31. “big fella”? What you talkin’ ’bout Willis? I ain’t big?

    Like

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 3 July 2007 @ 9:55 am

  32. All such ‘never to be discussed’ subjects and persons can ‘safely’ be redirected to the juicy new ER(D)MANIA blog and D did me in again! Gonna have to retire this exhausted keyboar one of these days.

    Like

    Comment by samlcarr — 3 July 2007 @ 11:22 am

  33. I look forward to being on the cutting edge of Erdman thinking… though I do find it suspicious that both samlcarr and er(d)mania seem to be experiencing the precisely the same keyboard malfunction. Coincidence? I think NOT — muahaha!

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 3 July 2007 @ 12:48 pm

  34. I have to figure out how to hide that telltale profile before anyone else begins to suspect who is flogging whom…

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    Comment by samlcarr — 3 July 2007 @ 1:24 pm

  35. Write sentences with no “d”s in them. If you replaced “hide” with “conceal” in your last comment you’d have a perfect sentence. I read a story by David Sedaris about his childhood childhood lisp and his attempt to disguise it by avoiding words with an “s” in them.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 3 July 2007 @ 1:37 pm

  36. Ok, d is out. The thesaurus makes a comeback! Roget may never have thought that he might be put to such nefarious use.

    Like

    Comment by samlcarr — 3 July 2007 @ 2:33 pm

  37. b, b, but…”hidden” and “concealed” sort of mean two different things…s, s, sorry…I have a problem with s, s, stud-d-d-ering.

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    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 3 July 2007 @ 2:39 pm

  38. What’s that you say? Can’t you speak up?!

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 3 July 2007 @ 2:45 pm

  39. This is th, th, the internet. Th, th, there is no speaking.

    However, I did successfully use a “d”, a number of times. And whoever can pull of not using a particular letter on their keyboard…is good…if they still end up saying what they mean. And nevermind about hidden and concealed. I started typing up what I meant about that, and realized it made no sense really, in the end. But still, if you can just bust out a thesauras and still ring the same bell tones…well…you’re good.

    Like

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 3 July 2007 @ 5:07 pm

  40. Jason, it’s fun, I actually replaced two ‘would’s with may and might and actually ended up with a much better sentence!

    Like

    Comment by samlcarr — 3 July 2007 @ 10:48 pm

  41. Yes but replace “stone” with “pillow” and you go from Jacob’s dreaming of a ladder with ascending and descending angels to John Beluschi’s dreaming of a sorority girl slumber party! Replace “ran” with “went” and you go from achilles to Robocop. Replace “would” with “maybe,” however, and you’re straight.

    Then there’s my own personal problem. Tell me I can’t use the letter “t” on a keyboard, and one missing finger movement will be all of my mind’s occupasion. However, I will manage to find ways around the delimma, even if I have to chead magnminously, or even maybe sound rediculous, using words like “magnaminous” rather than “magnificend,” thus requiring less cheading.

    :)

    Like

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 3 July 2007 @ 11:41 pm

  42. “The Gen Next seems to be more leaning towards parenting without marriage (but often with cohabitation) and becoming parents later rather than earlier, and that could be a response to both demographics and the economic stress of single parenting as youth.”

    There’s a perverse trap at work here: fewer kids born later in life ensure that the parents can spend even more money on their children. Through social expectations “can spend” turns into “must spend.” American parents are extremely eager to spend money on their children, be it through buying (expensive) houses in (high-priced) neighborhoods that have the best schools, or sending their kids to expensive private schools, or encouraging their kids to participate in expensive extracurricular activities, or making sure their kids get into the best (most expensive) universities. The cost of university education is one of the areas where prices are growing at the fastest rate. Is it because Americans increasingly value knowledge and thought for its own sake, or because an expensive education is the ticket to a high-paying job?

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 4 July 2007 @ 5:51 am

  43. Ktismatics:
    Is it because Americans increasingly value knowledge and thought for its own sake, or because an expensive education is the ticket to a high-paying job?

    I would say that both are at work. We are consumers and living in a keen market economy, but even those who are benefiting most from the financial windfalls of economic success generally recognize Qohelet’s point: that one should enjoy one’s wealth and that stuff does not equal a meaningful life.

    Having the $$ is kind of the foundation to allowing us to plug into meaningful ventures, which includes knowledge in various areas. Consider: Becoming a professor in one of human arts is nearly impossible without some really good connections, a lot of hard work, and a good amount of luck. In other words, more and more people are pursuing deeper, more meaningful careers.

    Am I being too generous here???

    Like

    Comment by Erdman — 4 July 2007 @ 9:56 am

  44. “Becoming a professor in one of human arts is nearly impossible without some really good connections, a lot of hard work, and a good amount of luck. In other words, more and more people are pursuing deeper, more meaningful careers.”

    You bring up a good point. Given the competition, you’d think market forces would drive salaries down. And I suspect it’s still true that a humanities professor is paid poorly relative to the amount of intelligence, education and work that goes into the job. So why has the cost of a university education in America continued to outstrip cost of living increases over the last decade or two? Is it because government foots less and less of the bill? In France a university education is free, paid for by taxes. In England that was true until just a few years ago, and even so the cost is much lower than in the States.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 4 July 2007 @ 12:24 pm

  45. Well, I think it would be also important to factor in the private vs. public university/college costs in the States. Publically funded universities have significantly lower costs that the student has to pay, and also gobs and gobs of gov’t grants and cheap gov’t loans.

    Like

    Comment by Erdman — 4 July 2007 @ 1:39 pm

  46. “Having the $$ is kind of the foundation to allowing us to plug into meaningful ventures, which includes knowledge in various areas.”

    Yes, that’s the concern isn’t it — unequal opportunity. The more a prep school or private university education costs, the more difficult it becomes for the less affluent to rise to positions that either pay extremely well or are really interesting. I’m not persuaded that high-priced schooling actually results in a better education, It does, however, look good on the resume, introduces you to the right class of people, and builds the kind of self-confidence required of the elite.

    I suspect you’d agree that it costs little or nothing to become well-informed in practically any area of study — get some books, read them, think about them, try your hand at contributing creatively to the field. Also in my experience, one’s formal education doesn’t have a whole lot to do with what’s required to perform most jobs — a few months actually doing the work is more useful than whatever degree you’ve earned. In our plutocratic society money is an entitlement, and the right pedigree is a proxy for money.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 4 July 2007 @ 2:42 pm

  47. Here’s a post contending that confidence is the main thing kids learn by attending elite schools in England.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 4 July 2007 @ 8:03 pm

  48. Both of you are bringing up very important points here. One thing that homeschooling has taught us is that in eucation, given an averagely intelligent chil an parent, professionals are not needed. As John points out one can be self taught in this day and age in almost any subject and the net has contributed tremendously to that, though it was always a reality that a person with the drive to learn could master any subject just as well as the professionally trained person.

    But, casteism is a fact of life. However unfair, the reality is that ‘having the right connections’ is exactly the stepping stone that elite institutions offer, and ‘confidence’ is only a euphemism.

    Like

    Comment by samlcarr — 5 July 2007 @ 12:40 am

  49. Girard talks about “mimetic desire” — we don’t know what we want, so we imitate the desires of others we admire. Academics aren’t immune to this phenomenon. What distinguishes a scholarly hot topic isn’t necessarily its intrinsic importance but rather a convergence of attention across individuals who influence and emulate one another. Usually there are a couple of bright and heavy stars at the center who attract a critical mass. I’m an advocate of the “cold topic,” discovered and explored by the solitary scholar who through social distance remains immune from the mimetic desires that permeate academe. Alas, it’s hard to remain isolated enough, even through self-study. The internet keeps you in touch, but it also serves as a conduit for transmitting hot topic memes. What should I think about and how should I think about it? The blogosphere will let you know.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 5 July 2007 @ 7:28 am

  50. I agree the net can be distracting but it can also help.

    One thing you do want to know is whether you are doing something new, or has it all been said before?

    The second area is that of finding other studies that might support or not but that do overlap somewhat an that is now much easier.

    Also, one can put bits and pieces up for discussion in blogs or on websites and get feedback as the work is progressing. On the whole i think the help is more than the hurt and remaining insular now is much more a matter of one’s own stubborness.

    Like

    Comment by samlcarr — 6 July 2007 @ 6:12 am

  51. “Remaining insular now is much more a matter of one’s own stubborness.”

    At times I’ve cultivated insularity as a kind of monastic discipline, trying to pursue my own understanding of something without the other voices clamoring for attention. Possibly it is just being stubborn. Maybe some kind of oscillation between engagement and isolation is a good idea.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 6 July 2007 @ 9:11 pm

  52. Rublev’s Silence, initiated by great injustice, broken by words of consolation, seems to speak to this question of monastic “insulation” and engagement with external reality.

    Like

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 7 July 2007 @ 3:07 am

  53. Was Rublev’s silence a selfish and stubborn gesture, because in his despair over human cruelty and corruption he lost sight of the possibilities of love and creativity? Or was the prolonged silence somehow necessary for him to see these things again, and did he see them differently than he would have if he had kept talking all those years?

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 7 July 2007 @ 5:13 am

  54. For me, I think you have to start with the notion of humility. There is a certain humility involved in letting go of trying to fix the world for sixteen years. And there is also a certain humility involved in being willing to be humbly silent for sixteen years to expiate for your sin(s). So no, I don’t read it as selfish and stubborn. Quite the opposite. And I think that through that sixteen years, he was coming to trust God to be the power that can transform hate and injustice into love and “creativity.” I think that the inspiration for that quest for trust lie at the beginning of it, but it was still a quest.

    So I guess that amounts to, “the prolonged silence [was] somehow necessary for him to see these things again, and…he [needed to do that in order to] see them differently than he would have if he had kept talking all those years?” Although I guess its pretty speculative to ask waht would have happened if he would have spoken all those years. I think you have to look at it not in terms of the effects and/or ends of the vow of silence, but its beginning, which I think is about the humility and the trust.

    Like

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 7 July 2007 @ 12:04 pm

  55. I agree with your evaluation of Rublev’s silence. This was a fictionalized account, since nobody knows much of anything about Rublev — so this is Tarkovsky’s position on silence. He made these Orthodox Christian films in the atheistic Soviet Union, where so much of the art was trash and where Stalin killed tens of millions. It’s amazing they let him make these movies — though they did impose silence on him by banning the films from being shown.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 7 July 2007 @ 4:56 pm

  56. “It’s amazing they let him make these movies — though they did impose silence on him by banning the films from being shown.”

    I wish I understood that dynamic, that aspect, of Russian culture better. Like, I just don’t get it. Why would he be able to do that, whereas others would have simply been killed…for even BEING Christian? It makes me think and/or wonder that his father, a poet, must have been at least somewhat famous. Andrei must have inherited, so to speak, some measure of power and fame from his father. Maybe the Russian authorities sort of wore the Tarkovsky name as a badge of cultural achievement…even though they banned his films from being shown. Similar to Florensky, except Florensky was purely functional to them.

    Like

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 7 July 2007 @ 7:58 pm


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