Why are fewer people getting married and having children today? Why do those who have children have fewer of them? Why are more and more choosing to have no children at all?
We believe one reason is the barrage of family undermining, doomsday statistics that come at us through media that suggest:
1. Having children contributes to the rampant overpopulation that will doom the world.
2. A majority of marriages are doomed to failure and divorce.
3. The financial costs and obligations associated with having and raising a child are astronomical and pretty much impossible for average people to bear.
We've heard it reported that increasing the population will create shortages for all, that more than half of all marriages end in divorce, and that it may cost $500,000 to raise and educate a child. Plus, we're reminded daily of the ever-increasing numbers of children who have serious troubles with drugs, gangs, teen pregnancy, dropping out of school and suicide.
We read it, hear it and watch it. It may get to the point where some feel the only safe course or the only logical decision is to steer clear of the land mines of marriage, family and children altogether.
We've written about several of these issues before (Aug. 27, 2013; April 15, 2014; May 14, 2014). Most of the doomsday-statistical commentaries we see and hear are huge misinterpretations of the facts. The truth is:
1. According to information provided by the CIA's "World FactBook," birthrates in most third-world countries are plunging, and the birthrates are below replacement levels in most developed countries. Of the world's 224 nation-states, 116 actually have declining populations except for in-migration. Their problem is not too many people, but rather not enough people to maintain their workforces.
2. There have been years in which there were half as many divorces in America as there were marriages, but there are far more married adults than single. So the numbers do not mean that half of the marriages are ending in divorce. It's the high divorce rates in second and third marriages that push us toward the 50 percent overall number that we hear so often. The real problem is the paradigm that suggests that there is no need or real benefit to getting married in the first place and that leads to more and more cohabitation and less and less marriage.
3. Adults with children do better financially than those without, according to a Princeton University and Stony Brook University study. Of course, children cost money, but they can also help and earn and eventually become independent (and eventually take care of their parents). While it is hard to raise kids today, and many families are in trouble, it is, of course, still economically possible to create strong families and raise successful children. And as we wrote in our column May 14, a "U.S. Department of Agriculture estimate that it costs more than $300,000 (inflation adjusted) to raise a child includes assumptions like adding a new room onto your house for each new child."
What a tragedy it is when misinterpreted statistics and false paradigms keep many people from life's most joy-providing experiences, roles and stewardship - those of marriage, commitments, children and family.
Richard and Linda Eyre are New York Times No. 1 best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Visit them anytime at EyresFreeBooks.com or at valuesparenting.com, and follow Linda's blog at eyrealm.blogspot.com.