Return of Return of the Parents

In Return of the Parents, I wondered if “we could be witnessing the beginnings of a long term shift back towards larger families.” Both and said they didn’t think so. Now, I skimmed a few academic papers in my reply and put a couple a way to read more thoroughly and Attitudes and Low Fertility (PDF) should interest you guys especially. Even would be interested in some of what it says.

While Barber & Axinn acknowledge that changes in attitudes towards childbearing have contributed to the fertility decline in the U.S. in recent decades, they perceive changes in attitudes less unidirectional. Future trends may see a reversal of ideational change to more traditional value orientations (see also Lesthaeghe & Moors, 1995) as well as movements that discourage behaviors, such a premarital sexual activity, that are frequently seen as defining features of “modern” demographic behavior (e.g., Bearman & Brückner, 2002 [PDF]).

That is, don’t assume that society’s attitudes about childbearing can’t or won’t change.

4 thoughts on “Return of Return of the Parents”

  1. “interested” versus “like”

    Grins. I might not like what it has to say, but I’m interested in it. And, yes, I still owe you a little more thinking on my drive-by on your previous entry on this topic.

    The term “Free Love”, with the meaning it had during the 1960s and ’70s, was coined back in the mid to late nineteenth century, a century before the popularization that we associate it with. I’m well aware that all of the cultural shifts that some people see as progress, or the conclusion of “the culture war”, are reversible, and we could as easily be a decade or two from contraception and homosexuality being illegal again as from further freedoms on those fronts.

    I’m having a bit of a trouble untangling what the authors’ conclusions are, they seem to alternately highlight and discount the genetic component (but, obviously, the genetics of the desire to have children are self correcting…), so focusing on the cultural support for larger families: It’s hard to separate cultural support from economic factors but, yeah, I can definitely see even in the short term hard swings in cultural morality, and when you add the factor that those who tend towards the conservative are having more children, then, yes, the political issues I find important today are going to be a factor for the rest of my life.

    1. Re: “interested” versus “like”


      I’m having a bit of a trouble untangling what the authors’ conclusions are, they seem to alternately highlight and discount the genetic component

      I suspect this is because the paper wanted to focus on the cultural stuff, but was doing that with a twin study which, inherently, has a major genetic component.

      Would it be safe to say that we are at a time when the two forces (higher educaton, fewer children, urban vs. more family-focused, more rural/suburban) are more-or-less at stasis so we have more visible tension between them?

      (Note that I prefer educated urbanism, but I love my children. I suspect I’ll never be happy 😉

  2. another thought

    Perhaps the other factor is the option to choose to have children. Consider the education/intellectual prowess of Jonathan Edwards (Remember high school English … “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”?) He had 11-12 children by his wife Susan.

    Some of the change and shrinking populations can be directly attributed to the advent of a reliable means of birth control with “the pill” … and a few years later the legalization of abortion for any inconveniences that happen for instances with out birth control.

    If it is an option, rather than a mandate (“Go forth and multiply and fill the earth”) then children are not necessities or extra hands to do the never ending farm work … but ‘pets’ … another piece of property, another hobby or activity to take on and indulge in as in “Oh all my friiends have one, I think i want one, too.”
    Which is why the number becomes limited … Oh I just don’t have time for children with all that I am doing, whereas in the past the option of being too burdened simply did not exist, one simply learned to develop ways to make time.

    1. Re: another thought

      This kind of goes back to the notion in that other thread that happiness in marriage is determined less by compatibility and more by the expectation of what’s right and wrong. And kind of ties back to some earlier statements made by our host that we have the option of “Choosing to be Blessed” (a notion I subscribe to, despite my atheism).

      But I’m no fan of rolling back technology to remove our options in this matter. And, yes, as a childfree individual (albeit one who seems to end up involved in a lot of children’s lives) I do see children as largely a hobby or lifestyle decision. One with some pretty hefty consequences (both good and bad) on the greater society, but an individual choice.

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