"Is your family Catholic? Christian? Mormon?"
If you're from a large family, you're probably used to these types of questions. Large families equal religious families in many people's eyes -- but how true is that stereotype?
A few months ago research from Pew sparked curiosity on the issue, particularly because the findings seem to suggest the opposite -- that religion is not directly related to a family's size.
However, contrary to that study, the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B recently published newer research suggesting religious people are more likely to have more children. The new research was more comprehensive. It used the Minnesota-based Integrated Public Use Microdata Series International Census (IPUMS) as a source; and it analyzed more than 3.6 million women of different faiths in 32 countries. (The Pew study used an American demographic of 35,000 people.)
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The new data suggests religion does play a part in how many children a couple has, specifically if both husband and wife practice the same religion. Women in these marriages were more likely to have more children and less likely to have no children at all.
But the data begs the question: Does faith make things easier for moms of large families?
Faith-filled moms respond with a resounding yes.
"If it weren't for my faith, I would not have the grace or stamina to enjoy the big family I have, nor understand how it fulfills the mission of my life," said Elsa Hoffman, a Northern Virginia-based mom who also home-schools her children.
"Thanks to my faith, I do see every child that God gives me as a gift, a mission. It's my purpose and an eternal investment for the future of my soul and theirs," she said. "What could be more fulfilling, enriching, and edifying?"
Maria Smith (not her real name) is a mother of 10 children in the Washington, D.C., area. Faith played an integral role for her in having a large family, she said.
"At your wedding, you make the vow that you will accept children lovingly from God. Some people say, 'After two or three children, oh, that's enough' -- and that's a lack of faith in some ways," said Smith.
"The vow you make on your wedding day means you trust God implicitly. It could mean you have three children, but it might be 10 -- and in my case thankfully it was 10," she said.
"If I had only had four kids and said, 'That's enough, I can't do anymore,' then I wouldn't have the other six, and I love them so much. Through them I understand God's plan."
The generosity and sense of giving it takes to have so many children today often goes unspoken in the discussion of large families. And the sacramental grace that comes through Christian marriage or the trust in God that comes with anyone who is religious plays a part in family planning -- and ultimately, in accepting God's plan of more children.