I’m not alarmed as others about the recent Pew Research Center study on the satisfaction factors in marriage.
(People today) understand marriage as a very private and individualized decision and lifestyle. In other words, to see it largely as something that a couple chooses, and that choice is a choice that is theirs and theirs alone without too many other connections to other things, such as children.
So says H. Richard McCord, executive director of the USCCB’s Secretariat for Family, Laity, Women and Youth. (Is this committee’s conglomeration of topics helping? Other than financially, I mean.)
The summary of the Pew study is interesting reading. The researchers do say that parents still highly value children. They just don’t acknowledge offspring as much of a factor for the happiness of the marriage itself:
Children may be perceived as less central to marriage, but they are as important as ever to their parents. As a source of adult happiness and fulfillment, children occupy a pedestal matched only by spouses and situated well above that of jobs, career, friends, hobbies and other relatives.
I’m curious about what this really means. It’s the only huge drop among the many factors, and one of only two major changes. Parents themselves still value children highly, so it’s not a question of disinterest in parenting, only of linking the two aspects so closely. The study does show a high importance attached to children by single parents.
And for my own experience, it was clear after a few years of marriage that my wife and I were not able to conceive. If anyone asked us if that was somehow an obstacle to our happy marriage, we would likely have said no. Adoption was a personal choice, but not necessarily one we saw as integral to the health of our marriage.
The Church doesn’t presume every marriage will produce children, otherwise, it would not permit the marriage of older couples. (Of course, there would be much loss of good will, not to mention income, were that to be enforced.) The Rite requests openness of couples. Is the actual fact of conceiving and rearing biological children important? Or is it the openness to the possibility? Or does a marriage need some kind of special generativity to keep it strong?