The nuclear family has traditionally defined the average structure of the American family unit. The nuclear family consists of a married couple with their children living together in the same house; in the modern era, the nuclear family is no longer an accurate representation of the average American household. The number of couples in the United States without any children is increasing. The dynamics in couples without children and those with children are very different.
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More and more couples are choosing to intentionally remain childless. The trend of married women of childbearing age, defined as between 15 and 44, choosing to remain intentionally childless has been rising. According to the National Center of Health Statistics, the percentage grew from 2.4 in 1982 to 6.6 in 1995. According to the Census Bureau's 1998 survey, the total normal of married women in the United States who are childless is 5.7 million.
Childless couples with dual incomes are, on average, better educated than couples with children. According to the 1998 census report, 30 per cent of childless couples both have college degrees, as compared to 24 per cent of those with children. Occupationally, 24 per cent of childless couples have professional or managerial occupations, as compared to 16 per cent of those with children.
As would be expected, childless couples spend a good deal more in certain categories than those with children. On average, a childless couple spends 60 per cent more on entertainment, 79 per cent more on food and 101 per cent more on dining out. Childless couples are also more likely to have pets and those that do tend to spend a good deal more money on them.
Typically, childless couples eat healthier than those with children. Childless households, even adjusting for other factors like income and age, consume a healthier diet than a household with children, consuming more meat, fruits and vegetables per person. Households with children have a lower total consumption of meat and increased consumption of dairy, cereals and potatoes.
One of the most telling differences between childless couples and those with children is the level of overall happiness. It was reported in the 2006 book "Stumbling on Happiness," by Professor Daniel Gilbert, that martial happiness dramatically decreases after the birth of a child, and doesn't increase until the last child has left home. A study performed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison concludes that the level of stress attributed to raising children has increased due to shifts in employment patterns. Working outside the home and receiving less support from extended family, as well as other factors, has increased the level of stress associated with raising children and decreased overall martial satisfaction as a result.
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