Friday, 7 September 2012

British Mormon fertility and its determinants


The first basic finding of the three studies listed below was to provide evidence that British Mormons display broadly the same unique pattern of fertility as US Mormons.

The pattern can be found summarized in Rodney Stark's The rise of Mormonism (2005) - and especially draws on the research of Professor Tim Heaton of Brigham Young University, Utah, USA.

The similarity implies that the cause of the unique Mormon fertility pattern in two different countries is the Mormon religion specifically, rather than some factor specifically to do with the nature of the US Mormon population, such as a founder effect, or the non-religious social situation in Utah and the adjacent states of the Mormon heartland.


The second basic finding was consistent with religious factors being a significant cause of Mormon fertility, which was the self-reported reasons for fertility decisions: the most strongly supported reasons were consistent with Mormon church teachings, some of which are either distinctive to Mormonism or else more strongly emphasised among Mormons than other denominations.

However, at present it is not possible to be very precise about exactly which of these theological factors are the most important in fertility decisions.


The unique Mormon pattern of fertility.

1. Larger than replacement level numbers of children.

   (That is to say significantly higher than 2.1 children per woman, on average).

2. Despite widespread use of contraception. This implies that for Mormons family size is usually chosen deliberately.

   (By contrast, other religious groups with significantly above-replacement fertility do not allow contraception.)

3. In a group of people who are more educated than average and economically more successful than average.

4. Average fertility (numbers of children) tends to be highest among the most educated and wealthiest Mormons.

   (This is a reversal of the normal pattern seen in developed nations, where the most educated and wealthiest people have the smallest average family size.)


As can be seen in the studies listed below, this pattens is seen in the UK Mormons we surveyed. Although the UK samples are not representative, it would be extremely unlikely to obtain a sample of non-Mormons with these characteristics purely by chance - it seems certain that British Mormons also display the unique pattern of fertility seen in the USA; and therefore that Mormonism is the key factor in causing this pattern.


The pattern of Mormon fertility could be explained in a general sense as a combination of two forces: one tending to increase family size, the other tending to limit family size.

1. On the one hand, Mormonism encourages large families, yet

2. On the other hand Mormonism encourages what might briefly be described as 'self-reliance' - in the sense that the ideal Mormon family unit should be able (as a rule) to support itself without assistance from outside the family

   (Indeed, the Mormon family ought to aim to generate a surplus to use on church activities such as buildings and mission work - it should also be noted that virtually no money goes on salaries, since Mormon Priests (all adult men in good standing), Bishops and Stake Presidents, are all unpaid part-timers - hence indeed they usually subsidise these roles from other jobs.)

3. The combination leads to wealthier Mormon families being the largest, on average, since they can afford to bring up larger numbers of children decently, without using external resources.

Presumably poorer Mormons must necessarily limit their family sizes voluntarily by means of contraception.


Reasons for fertility decisions:

The strongest findings across the studies are that large families are desired due to a strong belief in the persistence of family relationships after death. Although this is a factor in many other Christian denominations, this is uniquely emphasised among Mormons - indeed, in theology, the highest unit of salvation for Mormons is not the individual human, but a man and his wife together, whose marriage has been eternally 'sealed' in a Temple.

Devout Mormons therefore, in following LDS church teachings, will wish to have large families.

family size is constrained by the health of husband and wife, and many other things. But there is a strong, albeit not necessarily 'theological' teaching in favour of self-reliance in the Mormon church. This comes-out behaviourally in many ways, such as creating large store of food and other supplies - and also in limiting family size according to economic factors.

The self-reliance constraint does not operate in many other of the high fertility religions in the West; in which religious adherents are happy and keen to accept large amounts of state subsidies (or permanent charitable assistance) in order to sustain their large families.


The 2011 and 2012 studies both found a high level of support for the direct mechanism of personal revelation in deciding family size.

Being a mystical experience, this is not something that can be operationalized as a psychological variable - suffice to say that Mormons believe that they are given personal and divine guidance on fertility decisions in answer to prayers, often assisted by fasting.


Friday, 17 August 2012

2012 Study by Natasha Scott (supervised by BG Charlton)


The study was a questionnaire survey and intelligence test of 26 subjects (15 men, 11 women; aged between 18-60, mean age 34) drawn from two specific Mormon churches in the North East of England.

Permission to conduct research was obtained from the Bishop, and questionnaires were handed-out to the congregation during a Sunday morning visit - the response rate was about 12% of the two churches memberships.


Mean completed family size (aged over 40): 3.5 (SD 0.8)

[UK National mean completed family size: 1.9]

Mean intended family size (all subjects): 3.7 (SD 1)

Mode intended family size (all subjects): 4


Average age of marriage Mormon men in this sample: 24 years old (SD 2.4) [National average 32]

Average age of marriage Mormon Women in this sample: 22 years old (SD 2) [National Average 30]


WORDSUM brief intelligence test (ten multiple choice word definitions)

88% of subjects scored 7 or more, mean score was 8, 27 percent scored 9 or 10. The results indicate that this sample was considerably above average intelligence.

There was no significant trend towards a correlation between WORDSUM/ IQ-rank score and intended fertility (most national samples indicate a negative correlation between IQ and fertility)

 Social class: 92 % of the sample were in the top two social classes - professional and managerial.


Factors influencing family size decisions - clear cut responses

In influencing the size of your family, how important is your belief that family relationships continue after death? 77% regarded this as important (58% 'Very important'; 19% 'Important').

In influencing the size of your family, how important is your desire to follow church teachings regarding the plan of salvation and the purpose of the family? 77% regarded this as important (35% Very Important, 42% Important).

In influencing the size of your family, how important are answers to prayers and fasting, or other personal revelations? 88% regarded this as important (53% very Important, 35% Important).


Thursday, 16 August 2012

2011 Study by Rachel Errington (supervised by BG Charlton)


30 Mormons (10 male/ 20 female) and 51 non-Mormons (19 male/ 32 female) were recruited in an internet questionnaire survey.

Average age for all subjects was 30 years old (Standard deviation 15) - Mormons were 44 +/-15 while non-Mormons were 22 +/-7.

Social Class: 41 percent of Mormons (49% Non-Mormons) were in the highest social class (manager, director, senior official professional); with 17% (Non-Mormons - 16%) in the second social class (associate professional and technical).

Religiousness: 75 percent of Mormons (2% Non-Mormons) attended church at least once per week. 


Contraceptive use: 80 percent of Mormons (100% Non-Mormons) stated they felt it was acceptable to use contraceptives to control family size.


Mormons were recruited from an officially-approved advert on, and from Facebook groups (UK Mormons and British Latter-Day Saints). Non-Mormons were recruited by invitation to a Facebook groups set up for that purpose.

The online questionnaire asked for demographic information, a cognitive test (not reported here), and a section asking about attitudes to family life and factors influencing fertility (number of children) - these were based on the 2010 study by Kitchen (see below).


Selected Results - clearcut differences

Mean completed fertility (subjects aged above 45): Mormons 3.09 (SD 2.6); Non-Mormons 2.00 (all N-M subjects over 45 in the sample had 2 children).

Mean intended fertility (all ages): Mormons: 3.9 children (SD 2.3); Non-Mormons: 2.0 children (SD 1.1).

Responses to the question:

 How important are the following factors in influencing how many children you want?

"Family relationships continue after death"
Very Important - Mormons 66% v Non-Mormons 10%

"To provide as many premortal spirit children as possible with mortal bodies"
Fairly/ Very Important - Mormons 55% v Non-Mormons 0 percent 

"Desire to follow Church teachings regarding the plan of salvation and the purpose of the family"
Very Important - Mormons 60% v Non-Mormons 0 percent

"Answers to prayers and fasting, or other personal revelation"
Very Important - Mormons 80 % v Non-Mormons 0 percent


Monday, 13 August 2012

2010 survey by Charlotte EW Kitchen (supervised BG Charlton)



Internet questionnaire survey of British Mormons recruited mainly from Faceboook and plus advertisements placed on

175 subjects participated, 106 female and 69 male. Mean age was 36 years old (SD 14). Educational experience was an average of four years post-16.

Average occupational social class of subjects was high: Social class 1 (Professional jobs) 44%, Social class 2 (Managerial jobs, Teaching) 43%.

The questionnaire 1. Asked for demographic information, 2. Questions on marriage, family, children and related to religious devoutness. 3. Factors affecting family size/ numbers of children.


Main Results

Mean number of children in whole sample - 2.2

Mean number of children in completed families (those aged over 45) - 3.8.

Average age of mother at time of first child - 24 years old

92% of the sample indicated they attended church one a week or more often.


Family size in completed families - percentage of families (rounded figures)

With zero children - 7%
With one child - 6%
With two children - 11%
With three children - 22%
With four children - 20%
With five children 9%
With six children - 17%
With seven or more children - 8%

90% of 45 and older sample (98% of under 45s) believed it was acceptable to use contraception to control family size - 80% had planned their family size.


Reasons for family size.

Subjects were asked to strongly agree/ agree, neither agree nor disagree/ disagree or strongly disagree with a series of statements.

85% of subjects DISAGREED (40% disagreed, 45% strongly disagreed) with the statement: "Mormons should have as many children as possible even if that means depending on government assistance.

52 % AGREED (30% agreed, 22 % strongly agreed) that : "Mormons should have as many children as they can afford to bring up well without financial assistance from others."

67%  AGREED (27% agreed, 40% strongly agreed) that: "I am motivated to have children because family relationships will continue after humans have died."