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Parenthood appears to be a universal desire, and almost every adult in the United States has children or wants them, a Gallup poll published Saturday said.

The poll of 1,239 adults taken in April by the Gallup Organization and published in Sunday editions of the Chicago Sun-Times said 90 percent of Americans older than 40 have children.Of the 10 percent who do not have children, six of 10 say they wish they had.

Of those polled under age 40, 58 percent said they had kids. Of the remaining 42 percent, 84 percent said they would like to have them.

"Only an extremely small segment of Americans - about 4 percent - are anti-children; that is, don't have any, don't want any, or are glad that they don't have any. Parenthood, in short, appears to be a universal desire," said George H. Gallup Jr. and Dr. Frank Newport, who wrote the poll.

Only 7 percent of parents said they wished they had not had children.

"Most parents find it somewhat difficult to pin down why they want children," the men wrote.

The most common reasons cited were: the love and affection children bring (12 percent); having the pleasure of watching them grow (11 percent); and the joy, happiness and fun they bring (10 percent).



Other findings

- Eight of 10 Americans think parents today are insufficiently strict in disciplining children; just 2 percent say parents are too strict.

- Children are at their worst and "most difficult to be around" during their teenage years.

- Sixty-three percent said a family where the father has a job and the mother stays at home is the ideal situation; 73 percent of families with stay-at-home mothers believe the children are better off; but 64 percent of families with working mothers believe their children do just as well as those with stay-at-home mothers.