Parents under pressure: Economics and growing individualism will reinforce a trend towards fewer children, writes David Nicholson-Lord

FAMILIES with three or more children will become increasingly rare because of the costs and pressures of parenting, according to a report published yesterday.

Today's parents, it says, 'do not see themselves solely as 'Mum' or 'Dad', but are aware of the need to keep in touch with the person they were before they became parents'. More mothers are working and see their self-esteem bound up with their job. Children, meanwhile, are viewed as more materialistic.

According to Family Lifestyles 1993, from the market research organisation Mintel, the trend towards smaller families - the average number of dependent children is now 1.8 - is a product of economic pressures coupled with growing individualism among would-be parents.

The average age of a mother when her first child is born has risen from 24 in 1971 to 27.5 in 1991, leaving less time for larger families. Not only are more women working, but working mothers place as much importance on their jobs as men do.

Surveys by Mintel show that 34 per cent of working mothers with children aged 11 to 16 feel that their job performance is 'central' to how they feel about themselves - the same figure as men. Among working mothers, 47 per cent would carry on working if they did not need the money, compared with 46 per cent of men.

Yet many parents see children as costly. Eight out of ten households with children have been forced to cut back on spending because of the recession, compared with six in ten childless households. Half of the parents questioned also think today's children are too materialistic.

Angela Hughes, Mintel's consumer research manager, said recent surveys had indicated that younger children cost pounds 2,000- pounds 3,000 a year to bring up, rising to pounds 4,000- pounds 5,000 at the age of 10.

She added: 'The social, emotional and financial pressures of family life are making families with three or more children rare. Individuals want to fulfil all sides. For a lot of parents two children would probably fulfil their requirements in terms of family, and there are a lot of other elements of their life they want to participate in, be it working or leisure.'

Families with three or more children have declined steadily from 8 per cent in 1961 to 4 per cent in 1991. Parents display an 'exceptionally high degree of interest' in their children - four-fifths said children would be the last to suffer from financial hardship - but more parents (88 per cent) think it is important to do things without their children than express enjoyment at spending leisure time with them (80 per cent).

Nearly a quarter of parents with children under 16 at home say they would enjoy freedom from the res ponsibility of bringing them up. 'Clearly parents need the opportunity to express themselves as people in their own right rather than as simply mothers or fathers: this is especially true of mothers, who are still in the greatest danger of losing their identity amid the demands of motherhood,' the report says.

It also finds that households with children read and listen to the radio less, watch videos and use home computers more, camp or caravan more and tend to take their main holiday in the UK. Parents drink and smoke more than adults without children but also exercise more and are more likely to engage in creative pastimes.

Family Lifestyles 1993; Mintel; pounds 795.

(Table omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before