Starting a Family in Early Adulthood

As young adults enter the culminating phase of early adulthood (33–45), they enter the settling down (33–40) stage. By this time, they have established a career (at least the first one!) and found a spouse. If the couple have not already done so, they will probably decide to have one or more children and start a family.

People generally think that parenthood strengthens marriages, even though research indicates that marital satisfaction often declines after the birth of the first child. This need not be the case, however. If the marriage is already positive and the spouses share equally in parenting duties, they can minimize the hassles of parenthood and keep it from significantly interfering with marital happiness.

Regardless of the many joys of parenthood, new parents are not always prepared for the responsibility and time‐commitment that raising a child requires, especially when the pregnancy is accidental rather than planned, or when the child is “difficult” and prone to irritability and excessive crying.

The postponement of marriage and childbearing until the 30s makes for an interesting trend in today's world. Two advantages of waiting are the emotional maturity of both partners and the stability of their relationship. A more mature and stable couple possesses the necessary tools for weathering the storms of parenthood. Another advantage is financial stability due to more years on the job, promotions, and long‐term savings.

Another interesting trend is an increase in nontraditional family units. Examples of these include blended families (or “stepfamilies,” in which children from previous marriages are “blended” into a new family), single‐parent families, and same‐sex families.

Some couples choose to remain childless. Couples who have children do not necessarily regard themselves as more “fulfilled” than couples who do not. The critical factor seems to be the couples' ability to choose their lifestyle.

Sources of information about family planning, conception, birth control, and other pregnancy options include the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the National Right to Life Committee, and National Abortions Rights Action League.