Women are choosing dogs over motherhood

Nicole M. King
23 April 2014
Reproduced with Permission
Family Edge

The News Story - More young women choosing dogs over motherhood

If you think you've noticed an upsurge of tiny, furry friends being carried around in women's purses lately, you're right. It appears that more and more young women are foregoing marriage and motherhood, instead opting for pups as companions.

Reports the New York Post , "Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that a big drop in the number of babies born to women ages 15 to 29 corresponds with a huge increase in the number of tiny pooches owned by young US women." "I'd rather have a dog over a kid," one young women told the Post. "It's just less work and, honestly, I have more time to go out. You . . . don't have to get a baby sitter."

The Post highlights that this trend is growing as women delay marriage to ever-later years. But in spite of such women's claims of loving their carefree lives (and their furry friends), research reveals that grim outcomes wait for women who forego a family.

The New Research - Women alone - and depressed

Mental-health experts have known for decades that women are more vulnerable to depression than men. But a newly published study suggests that women's vulnerability to this mental malady depends a great deal on marital status.

Affiliated with the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago, the researchers embark on this new study aware that "women are twice as likely as men to experience depression and generalized anxiety disorder." Behind this gender disparity, the researchers describe "a variety of biological and social factors," including "women's hormonal fluctuations associated with menstruation, pregnancy and childbirth." But the Chicago scholars seek to identify more narrowly the social, economic, and personal characteristics that predict depression and anxiety among women.

Marital status stands out clearly as one such characteristic: the researchers report that "depressed women [in the study] were less likely to be married (8% versus 34% [p < 0.05])." What is more, this statistical linkage between marital status and depression persists in a sophisticated multivariable analysis taking into account women's differences in ethnicity, in physical health, in number of children, in neighborhood affluence, and in other background characteristics (once again, p < 0.05).

Clearly evident in the relative rates for depression, the protective effect of marriage shows up again - though less definitely - in the researchers' data for anxiety. The researchers report that the incidence of anxiety disorders runs lower among the married women in their study than among their unmarried peers. Though the difference in incidence rates does not reach the threshold for statistical significance, it does indicate a discernible statistical trend favoring married women (p = 0.071).

The Chicago scholars believe their study "highlights the importance of universal screening for depression or anxiety with more in-depth surveillance based on risk factors rather than on racial classification." Since marital status emerges as one of the salient risk factors, perhaps public officials should devote attention not just to screening women for mental illness but also to fostering lasting marriages that will shield these women from mental distress in the first place.