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?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - 3-4 Month Fixed Contract - £30-£35k pro rata

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a 3-4 month pro rata fi...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £26,000+

£16000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Telesales Executive is requir...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map