Repairing Relationships

Building intimacy and joy into your relationships

Would You Rather Have a Puppy Than a Child?

Why are Millennials opting out of parenthood?

A shocking new  article  hit the blogosphere this weekend which postulates that many American women would rather have a pet dog than a baby boy or girl. Quartz quotes Damian Shore, an analyst at market research firm Euromonitor, who observed, "Women are not only having fewer children [a 10 percent drop in the 15-29 year old age group since 2007], but are also getting married later. There are more single and unmarried women in their late 20s and early 30s, which also happens to be the demographic that buys the most small dogs." 

So many factors can go into a societal trend. As college debt has soared to $1 trillion, many millennials simply can't afford to buy a house or start a business, much less take on the financial burden parenthood brings. Since the sub-priime mortgage meltdown of 2008, banks have made qualifying for a loan a daunting proposition for those who want to seek the American dream of family and a home with a picket fence. For double income couples, child care costs can eat up a salary, discouraging the onset of a family until a nest egg is built up. But another factor has to be taken into consideration: the personal.

There appears to be a snowball effect on the personal choices American men and women are making to all the bad news about marriage and the familiy unit. Pierce College (California) social scientist and lecturer John Fergus has argued that this contemporary American societal upheaval has born a "chilling effect" on single adults, making them fearful of relationships. A survey by Ohio University and Scripts Howard News Service confirmed this pessimism about successful  matrimony due to the decline in male-female relations over the last century. Millennials are also logically gun shy after experiencing first hand the carnage of their Baby Boomer grandparents and Gen X parents failed relationships.

For some couples, having a pet is warmup for the team effort it requires to raise a child. But for others, the loyal dog, who will always be there to supply their owner with love and affection and has few needs besides dog chow, a daily walk and an occasional trip to the vet, is a perfectly logical response. Look for the trend of choosing a puppy over a baby to grow for a generation that  has come of age in a era when relations between men and women are so precarious and fraught with mental, emotional, and financial danger.

J.R. Bruns, M.D., is co-author of The Tiger Woods Syndrome, a book about repairing relationships.

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