Match.com recently funded a study of what TIME magazine says might “be the biggest study of single people ever.” They may have paid for it, but Helen Fisher at Rutgers University, Stephanie Coontz at Binghamton University and an independent company actually did the study of 5,200 singles ages 21-65 who were not in a serious relationship.
Along with better understanding of the “partnerless”, the study has interesting finding about singles’ feelings about whether they want to become parents…
It found that they guys overall, have a “greater inclination toward parenthood” across every age group. More than half the single men ages 21 to 35 say they want kids, and only 46% of women in the same age range say they want them. It would be interesting to track those that answered this away, to see if they felt the same way when they hit the 35 -44 age group.
In 35-44 age range in the study, just over a quarter (27%) of the men say they want kids, and only 16% of women in the same age range say they do. The percentage for women here is about the same as recent Pew and U.S. Census research which indicates that 18% ages 40-44 do not have children. The match.com study also indicates that overall more women than men said they were skipping parenthood altogether.
Why? “Women are much more interested in their independence than men are,” says Helen Fisher. These days women are more likely to want their own “bank accounts, their own interests, their own personal space and solo vacations, even if they’re in a committed relationship. They also care more about nights out with buddies.” I was not surprised to learn this; valuing one’s independence has been something that has factored into not wanting children for some time.
Now at least according to this study, independence also seems to factor into wanting to get married. The study dovetails with other recent research, and indicates more people are opting to stay solo or cohabitate, and not marry. But in the end, more Americans eventually get married than not. The study dispels the myth that guys want to remain single more than women–it finds that “just as many men want to get married as women do.”
What do you see out there? About what age do people decide for sure they are not or are having kids? Do you see more people wanting to stay single and forgo committed relationships?
If they do marry, is it around what research says is the latest median age, 27, or…? Tell me what you observe….
Most of the people I know decide if they want kids for sure by their early 20s. Those that do want to have kids tend to want to wait until their 30s to actually have them.
What is really interesting in my circle of friends is that many people want to be in a relationship but don’t find the right person until their late 20s or early 30s. They often would have liked it to happen much sooner, though.
I’m looking forward to what everyone else has to say on this topic.
I am confused by the survey. How did it handle single, divorced, or widowed women who already had children?
Back in the days of using websites like Match and Jdate, I found that at least 90% of the women’s profiles indicated that they either wanted to have kids OR already had kids (who were not grown; women with grown kids increased with age which actually helped me a bit over time).
If the size of the women’s group who don’t already have kids is smaller than the men’s group size, then to me it indicates that the remaining women are more hard-core about being childfree than the men are. A larger group of men indicates that there are more “fence-sitters” in there and some of them still want to have kids.
Yes, I wondered too how many singles who already have kids (e.g., in the older age ranges) responded that they did not want kids. However, if it is a mix it can still reflect the fact that they do not want any more of them. I have been in touch with eharmoney about some of their stats on “childfree” members and they mostly offer members choices to describe themselves as someone does not want a “family” now or does not want to live with people younger than 18. It too is a sideways way of getting at “I don’t want children ‘now'” and can asusme they once did. I agree with you too that if the women’s group in the match.com study does reflect women who don’ already have kids, they seem more hard-core about it than the guys.
From last month’s on-the-ground question re childfree dating, dating folks who have “been there done that” with the kid thing was appealing to some childfree. In fact they looked for folks like this! I would not have thought of this at first blush….
I am terrified that my bf will evolve into the “wants kids” category. The day that becomes certain is the day I am forced to leave. My dream since childhood involved finding Mr. Right and settling into domestic bliss – notably missing from this mental scenario was children. I will never have children, and I don’t care how many boyfriends that costs me.
That “greater inclination toward parenthood” doesn’t mean that it’s going to translate into equitable co-parenting between these male respondents and their girlfriends/wifes/baby mamas. As with domestic chores the majority of childrearing is still shouldered by the female parent in hetero couples that have spawned. It’s easy for these guys to say “Sure!” or “Yeah, maybe” because they’re not expected to (and probably won’t do) the bulk of the work. These types of articles bother me because they typicaly point toward some “reversal” of wants and expectations in hetero relationships when it’s not nearly as stark or radical as they make it out to be.
As far as your questions go, Laura, it seems to me that most of my peers are marrying later than their parents and grandparents did (mid to late 20’s and beyond for kids versus late teens and early to mid-20s for parents and grandparents). Most of the people I’ve evern known (IRL or online) who are decidedly childfree articulated in their teens and 20s. To be fair most of these people are my peers (the oldest of Gen Y and the youngest of Gen X)so I would kind of expect them to be more open with their desires at an earlier age than, say, childfree Boomers.
mtuni, I agree that “inclination” leaves it open to what guys think it means to be a parent. Aand it does not mean they will end up with kids in the end either. The study is a snapshot of where they are at their particular age; it would be more interesting to be able to track a good number of people to see how this evolves over time. It’s interesting that most of the cf you have known knew early in their lives. I do wonder igf with each generation we are seeing an increase here because with each gen the stigma lightens…well a little bit. Boy do I get mail from folks your age who may have known early but families etc have held the position they willchange their mind, and when they get to “fish/cut” bait ages, the pressure from others descends….
While the numbers of those who say they want children seem rather low to me, the data supports the belief that I, as a childfree woman in her mid-30s looking for a partner, have held for some time: There are more committedly childfree men out there than women.
I have tried using match.com in addition to other dating sites. I cannot tell you how disappointing it is to go from 15 pages of potential matches when the “Wants Kids?” Question isn’t taken into account, to 1 or 2 at best when I limit the same search to men who say “No” or “Probably Not”.
I have lost several relationships and more actual and potential dates than I can count solely because I don’t want kids. The stereotype is always about the baby-crazed woman, but I’ve seen more men than women who reject the idea of being childfree.
As far as when people know, I think many truly CF people are early articulators. I think more join our ranks in their mid 30s or later when no instinct has kicked in and/or realities about timing and fertility cause many to contemplate a happy life without children. I don’t think there’s a ton of room for change in the middle.
Perhaps some of the difference between the genders, particularly as they move into the older age group is that when single women hit their mid- to late-30s, they must seriously consider not having children because of their age (assuming several years will pass until they meet someone, date, marry, and eventually get pregnant). Men, however, can reproduce at any age as long as they are with a woman of childbearing age. So for men, they never really have to consider a biological clock. I wholeheartedly agree with prior posters who commented on women continuing to be the primary caregiver for children and, thus, taking on much greater responsobility, stress, and time in raising children. (On a side note, WHY is this? — Why don’t fathers do more? Why don’t the mothers make them? Why do the mothers make themselves out to be martyrs?)
Erin, righto..I have also read of late that the high end age for women to “fish or cut bait” as it were is now in the mid 40s! Women do end up being the primary caregiver so often but studies do say that there is nore co-parenting going on, which is a good thing, and stay-at-home are on the rise (the book The Daddy Shift give some interesting facts)…overall good sign.
I’m curious whether the study takes into account the probability that most men who are on dating sites and are genuinely looking for serious relationships are probably more inclined to be the type who want a family (else, they’d be picking up women in bars or coffee shops, eh?).
I was kind of surprised by this study, since my dating experience has mostly been with partners who also don’t want children. Then again, I don’t think I’d be interested in the type who want to be daddies in the first place, since I’ve made the choice to be childfree 🙂
As a guy who’s admittedly biased towards childfreedom, I wonder if men are more likely to say they want kids because they have less understanding of what it’s like, whereas women in our society are much more forced to think about it.
It’s not just about which sex gets pregnant, it’s about which sex has much bigger expectations when it comes to childcare. What it means when a man says he wants a child is often pretty different from when a woman says she wants a child.
So many childfree guys I have talked with have had financial concerns – they may have seen their oown father struggle to raise his kids and provide for them financially – they witnessed this and thought – I don’t want that to happy to me. This may be linked to the “male expectation” of being the provider…what think?