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?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Interactive / Mobile Developer

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - Midweight

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Front End Developer

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: Front End Developer - Midweight / Senior

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Day In a Page

Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks