The study “Trends in Attitudes About Marriage, Childbearing, and Sexual Behavior: United States, 2002, 2006-2010, and 2011-2013” (2016) conducted by Jim Daugherty and Casey Copen focuses on the changes in the attitudes of American men and women of reproductive age to the issues of marriage, divorce, childbearing, and sexual behavior in the period from 2002 to 2013. The study contains substantial data collected in-person from American male and female citizens in the age between 15 and 44. The statistics demonstrate that, in the recent years, the number of people supporting cohabitation, marrying and having the first child later, childbearing outside of marriage, and the right for gay and lesbian couples to adopt children has significantly increased. At the same time, divorce rates have decreased. Still, the data presented in the study can be interpreted and presented by different sources in a way that can mislead people.
For instance, while some media sources may use the data from the study mentioned above to illustrate the idea that modern people take a more responsible approach to the problem of family planning, some sources may use it to show the unwillingness of modern people to have families. Such difference in the interpretations of the same information is the result of the “natural tendency in all of us to pay attention to statistics that support conclusions we already have drawn (Boardman, Cavender, & Kahane, 2018, p. 117). For instance, according to the study mentioned above, “between 6% and 11 % of women and men agreed, “People can’t be really happy unless they have children” (Daugherty & Copen, 2016, p.4). Here is an example of a newspaper article demonstrating how the following statistics can be misinterpreted and turned into a tool of psychological manipulation:
Children Is Not a Priority
“In the course of history, the institution of family developed with one primary aim – to ensure the procreation of humankind. A typical image of a family includes a mother, a father, and one or more children. In many religions, the absence of children in a family is a good reason for divorce since it is believed that such a family is incomplete. Children make the spouses face many challenges, but they also make them experience spiritual affinity, mutual support, sense of shared responsibility, and endless love.
However, in the recent years, people’s understanding of a happy family has considerably changed. According to the results of the study “Trends in Attitudes About marriage, Childbearing, and Sexual Behavior: United States, 2002, 2006-2010, and 2011-2013” conducted in 2016 by Jim Daugherty and Casey Copen, only between 6% and 11 % of women and men support the statement that, in a family, “people can’t be really happy unless they have children.” In other words, the majority of modern married people do not view children as essential members of a family and do not wish to have them. Instead, after they get married, they prefer dedicating all their time and love to each other, their friends, and hobbies.
It goes without saying that all people want to live better and happier than their ancestors did. Well, the modern generation has all the chances to become the happiest …and the last one.”
In this article, one may see how just a few words added to the statistics completely change the idea the latter presents. In particular, adding the word “only” implies a negative connotation to the presented results of the study. In fact, the author persuades readers that the number of those considering children to be their priority in life is too small. Moreover, by adding the words “in a family,” the author completely distorts what the statistics say: to be happy, one should not necessarily have children. More than that, one should not even be married and have a family. The statistics mentioned above just emphasizes that people have reconsidered their attitudes to life and got rid of the biases that were imposed on them by society for many years. To avoid misinterpretation, one should present statistics without adding any emotionally-colored words and extra information to them.