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Catholics opting for smaller families

Catholic fertility rates have plummeted - even more sharply than the national trend to smaller families, with the number of families with four or more children falling from 19% to 4.5% in the 25 years to 1996.

In 1971, 19.1% of Catholic families with children had four or more, compared with the state average of 14.9 per cent. By 1996, only 4.5% of Catholic families comprised four or more children and the state average was 4.2 per cent.

Data prepared for the Adelaide Advertiser by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show Catholics in country SA were slightly more likely to have large families.

A spokeswoman for Centacare Catholic Family Services, Pauline Frick, said society's views on family were changing.

``Philosophically, there was a thing that a good family was a big family,'' she said yesterday. ``If a family filled a church pew, that seemed to be a wonderful thing.''

There was more recognition now that a family could be as valid with one child as with seven.

Ms Frick said that because people tended to marry later, fewer fertile years were left in which to have children.

``In 1972, the average age (at marriage) was 22 and now it's 28,'' she said. ``It may be even later that you decide to have your first child.''

Age at marriage and the cost of living would have been factors explaining the drop in large families for all groups.
Improved natural family planning might explain the even more significant fall in birthrate for Catholics.

Because the church opposed contraceptives such as the Pill and condoms, Catholic women were asked to rely on timing their monthly cycles and being familiar with the fertile days in which to avoid sex.

Centacare (SA)

The Advertiser (payment required)

29 Apr 2002