People are being married at a much later age than generations before them, and consequentially having less children at an older age. According to the U.S. Bureau of Census, 43% of American women in their 20’s were still single in 1976, compared with 28% in 1960. Society is not pressuring women into marriage as it used to.
Attitudes have changed for many women concerning their traditional female roles, which were wife, mother and homemaker. Women are not having as many children as their grandmothers or great-grandmothers did. Today’s women are getting married later, practicing a safe and reliable form of birth control and planning when they want to have children. Generations ago, a large family helped around the house, in the fields, or with the family business. It was a symbol to have a large family, especially to the head of the household. It showed he was a provider, and usually a devoted follower of his religion. Also families were larger because there was a higher mortality rate.
As these children from very large families grew up they wanted to give their children material items. So one of the values which helped to establish the small family idea in the United States was the middle class emphasis on offering the child as many advantages as the family could reasonably afford. Today the emphasis has shifted from the quantity to the quality of a home environment. People still want to give their children material advantages but the quality of how it is given has changed.
Economic factors have a lot to do with the number of children a husband and wife have. Food, housing, gasoline, heating fuel, entertainment, everything has had a rise in prices and some people just can’t afford to live if another child was added to the household budget. Some day or even now, there may not always be enough for just one more child to a family.
Women now have the freedom to choose whether to be a full time mother if she wants to be or to split her life between family and a career. Women are no longer bucking the disapproval from husband, family or society when they join or rejoin the labor force.
A lot of women are not having children because of the high rates of divorces, or people living together and postponing marriage and children all together. One out of every two marriages ends in divorce, statistics now state. Lower U.S. fertility rates could also be related to the increase in divorces, which has doubled between 1960 and 1976. Sometimes with a couple, divorce may even come before they have begun to have a family or have had only one child. Also the number of unmarried couples living together has doubled between 1970 and 1976.
On the other hand, with some women, motherhood holds a nicer side than it did in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Women are planning their pregnancies more and anticipating their newborn baby’s arrival with a new desire for motherhood. Gone are the days when motherhood was always under attack. Motherhood isn’t looked at as a crime against women or even society, it is becoming an important role again for women, but not the only role.