The Dwindling Nuclear Family

The Dwindling Nuclear Family December 15, 2021


The percentage of American households that consist of a married couple and children under 18 fell to a record low:  a mere 17.8%.

That’s according to census records, as reported by Bloomberg News.  Last year, the percentage of married-with-kids among the 130 million households in America was only 18.6%. In the 1970s, the percentage was over 40%.

The rest are singles, cohabitors, roommates, empty-nesters, widows and widowers, older families, and married but no kids.  The article cites as reasons for the decline people delaying marriage, and married couples choosing not to have children.

The pandemic, the article says, has further put off weddings over the last two years.  It has added six months to a woman’s average age when she gets married, which is now 28.6 years old.  In the 1950’s and 1960’s, the average age for getting married was 20.4 for women and 22.8 for men.  Of course, there have been many other factors since then, such as women going into the workforce at a greater rate, but the delay in marriage also decreases the number of children.

The American fertility rate dropped to 55.4 births per 1,000 in the second quarter of this year.  That’s a decline from 58.5 in the same quarter of 2019.

I came across yet another curious fact about the dwindling nuclear family.  Among couples who are married, 13% live apart from each other!

This is sometimes because of the demands of their jobs–the two have careers in different cities, or one of them gets transferred and they decide that one of them will stay put so the kids won’t have to transfer to different schools–but sometimes it’s because the two put such a high premium on their independence.

An article on the subject in the Wall Street Journal profiles one couple who is, as they are calling it, “living apart together.”  The story is illustrated with a picture of the two standing on their respective balconies in an apartment building, one right above the other.

In this case, the arrangement was an alternative to getting a divorce.  It turned out, they both simply needed their “own space.”  Some couples are living in different cities, getting together on weekends or when they can, so that they can stay closer to their children from previous marriages.  But some are “living apart together” from the get-go.

The article, entitled The Secret to These Successful Marriages?  Living Apart, quotes someone in one of these arrangements: “There’s no rulebook that says you have to live with your spouse.”

But isn’t that what marriage is?  The Bible is more than a rulebook, but Jesus Himself says, quoting Genesis 2:24-25:

“Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female,  and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6).

The man leaves his parents to “hold fast to his wife,” forming a new family.  They become “one flesh.”  They are “joined together,” and “man” should not “separate” them.  I think this can accommodate temporary living apart arrangements, but surely it speaks of the two being together.

What do you think of this kind of arrangement and about the larger decline in the number of traditional families? What do you think the consequences will be?


Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

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