Monday, July 02, 2007

Future Trends and More Merle

This blog may bend the boundaries of our Querencia, but I'll try to wrangle it back around.

According to AP, "The Pew Research Center survey on marriage and parenting found that children had fallen to eighth out of nine on a list of factors that people associate with successful marriages..."

The survey charted other trends, like cohabitation and divorce, and grouped responses by demographic. If I can find it on the Web, I'll post the study.

AP writer David Crary goes on:

The survey also found that, by a margin of nearly 3-to-1, Americans say the main purpose of marriage is the "mutual happiness and fulfillment" of adults rather than the "bearing and raising of children."

The survey's findings buttress concerns expressed by numerous scholars and family-policy experts, among them Barbara Dafoe Whitehead of Rutgers University's National Marriage Project.

"The popular culture is increasingly oriented to fulfilling the X-rated fantasies and desires of adults," she wrote in a recent report. "Child-rearing values — sacrifice, stability, dependability, maturity — seem stale and musty by comparison."

That quote was going to stand alone as my Crotchety Observation of the Day. But then it reminded me of a question I had during my reading of Merle's Door: What if, as a man with young children, I am more inclined to treat my dog like a child? In the field, we act more like partners, but at home I admit to behaving toward Rina with the same affectionate or cross demeanor my kids receive. Right down to the nonsense baby-talk and kisses on the nose.

In contrast, Ted Kerasote's relationship with Merle seems to have been informed by a different metaphor, developing into something akin to the adult friendships common to his life as (I gather) an unmarried man without children.

I wonder: How does parenting influence behavior toward pets, dogs in particular? Without kids, are we more likely to view our dogs as equal partners? What about the cliche that suggests pets become surrogate children to the childless? Does gender weigh in somehow?

Back to the Pew survey (see?): If Americans are becoming more comfortable with the notion of childless marriages, or of not marrying at all, how is this likely to change the way we see our companion animals?

Feel free to discuss!


Rebecca K. O'Connor said...

I don't think people with children are more inclined to see their dogs as children. I think that we have had a fabulous symbiotic relationship with dogs for thousands of years because most humans with nurturing in their genes finds themselves responding with nurture to dogs.

These days children are a choice rather than a consequence of choosing to have sex. This means that women who don't want to rear their children alone must convince their significant other to want to nurture as well. A very common female ploy to get a man to start thinking and believing he want kids is to get him a puppy.... *shrug* I probably shouldn't give away all our secrets, but I've seen it work more than once.

margory said...

dearest Matt - quick! - a copy of Adam's Task by Vicki Hearne to shake off some of what the book of a great dog left behind (I'm still reading but I can say that without equivocation already).

Am neither married nor a parent and usually steer clear of marriage conversations and of course not being a parent, I am expert on child-rearing;-)).

Still: People and dogs are not interchangeable in the ways we treat them; each influence >us< or the 'authority figure' -- and in each instance, adult with child OR dog - believe me - the adult is the authority figure. I know, as kids we all had dogs and we as kids were the 'authority figure' - and some kids are better with dogs than grown-ups -- but that's a circle neither of us should get caught in. (And as a kid, I had a free-ranging dog....)

I hope you read some Vicki Hearne.

isaac in japan said...

I would speculate that having children thickens the line between humans and animals rather than making a person more inclined to give an animal human characteristics. For example, your dog comes bounding up to you when you come home from work and licks your face as you talk baby talk and rub behind her ears. She's a happy dog. But I can't believe that any sane person wouldn't abandon the dog in a second if his/her children came running in for a hug just behind the dog. Will the dog feel neglected, unloved, unwanted when you turn your affection to your kids? Do you even think about the dogs "feelings" when faced with a decision between the two?

On the other hand if you DON'T have kids, there's no one to distract you from attributing all those emotions to the animal and pretty soon when you say, "My dog is a person too..." you really mean it! And if a dog is a person shouldn't they have the same rights as a person? And surely if my dog deserves rights then...And well, you see where this is going.

Back in the day when most people had children I would guess that the AR movement was much smaller than it is now. I don't mean to imply that someone who chooses not to have kids is going to be an AR activist, you don't lose your sanity by making that choice (conversely, you may lose much of your sanity by choosing to have children!), but I would guess that having children makes the distinction between kids and companion animals that much more clear.
Oh and Matt, thanks for finally catching the name spelling thing! ;-)

Anonymous said...

Alright Margory, Vicki Hearne goes on the pile. :-)


Anonymous said...

I think people start wanting to have children when they are no longer "hot" themselves out there in the dating-mart. Unfortunately thats dangerously late for a lot of women and they will wind up childless or only get to have one child.

As we get surrounded by more and more "diversity" to the point that whites become physically uncomfortable, some people are going to do a little reading and "get it" that replacement birthrates are not a mere statistic, but a reality.