Social Question

Blackberry's avatar

How much of people wanting kids is biological, and how much is environmental? Is there a rise in the number of people not wanting kids?

Asked by Blackberry (31933points) March 22nd, 2012

We know people want kids for various reasons, and people don’t want kids for various reasons, but the people that don’t want kids are a minority.

Has it always been this way, or has there been an increase in people that don’t want kids? If so, why?

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15 Answers

linguaphile's avatar

Only on the east and west coasts does that seem to be mostly true. Here in the midwest and more rural or suburban areas, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

I think, though, that our culture is changing. More people don’t feel like they have to have kids to feel fulfilled and successful. I observe that in my students who have graduated—the ones who don’t go to college and really don’t have plans other than to work are the ones who have kids sooner and more frequently. The ones who go to college and have aspirations with or beyond having a family tend to wait longer and have fewer kids.

I also noticed that my ethnic minority former students tend to have kids sooner as well—almost like it’s a cultural expectation that they marry young and have kids quickly.

marinelife's avatar

Birth rate goes down correspondingly as income levels and education rise.

jaytkay's avatar

Birth rates drop with increased wealth and education.

WikipediaThe demographic-economic paradox is the inverse correlation found between wealth and fertility within and between nations. The higher the degree of education and GDP per capita of a human population, subpopulation or social stratum, the fewer children are born in any industrialized country

Nullo's avatar

Well, Europe’s population is nosediving. In Italy, you’ve got people dating for years before getting married, and then only having one kid, if any.
My guess is that Western culture has found things that are interesting enough to override a freaking biological imperative.

JustPlainBarb's avatar

I think it’s just becoming more “acceptable” to not have kids .. if that’s your choice.

It’s a good thing too. People who don’t really want kids .. should not have them.

Raising kids is a wonderful thing .. but very demanding, challenging and expensive. More and more people are preferring to concentrate on their careers and chosen lifestyles that might not include having children.

But .. there are always going to be people who will make great parents. Those are the people I hope will share their lives and love with children.

Blackberry's avatar

Yeah, I think the environment is much stronger.

RocketGuy's avatar

There is a lesser need for farm hands these days.

Aethelflaed's avatar

There’s definitely an increase in people not wanting kids. Before, you didn’t really have a choice, and very few people seemed to even consider the possibility of deliberately not having kids. The rise of the childfree is a new thing.

jca's avatar

Birth control is more available and more accepted, and also there are new bc medications that are easier on women than in the past. Vasectomies are not uncommon any longer. More people are remaining single and not feeling like having children is the only path to take in life. Decades ago, getting married and having children was what everyone did, and everyone else had to keep up with the Joneses. Also, as @RocketGuy said, on the farm, children were needed to help with the harvest and planting, and help mom churn butter and haul water.

wundayatta's avatar

Birth rates have dropped recently, but I don’t think that represents a long term trend. It is possible that birth rates correspond with income. The birth rate in the US has remained pretty flat since 1972 (See second page). The recent decline is well within the range of variation since 1972.

I think a theory that combines both genetic and environmental components in explaining birth rate is probably going to have the best success. I think we have an underlying desire to procreate because if we didn’t, we wouldn’t continue to exist. I think we are programmed to assume that resources are finite and that over a lifetime, it is better to spend ones resources effectively. Thus, one should wait until relative times of prosperity to bring children into the world.

Secondly, the number of children one brings into the world should be related to ones ability to care for those children. So, the better you can care for children, the fewer you need to be sure to pass your genes along. If you are poor, then it makes more sense to have a lot of children. You can’t give any of them much help, so they all have an equal chance of surviving. Even though the chance is relatively smaller, by increasing the number of children, you increase your overall chances of passing your genes along to subsequent generations.

Wealthy people, in contrast, know they have enough resources to care well for their children. In addition, they have an opportunity cost for having more children. It keeps them from earning higher incomes. So for them, the optimal number of children is smaller than for poorer people. Optimal in a balancing equation sense—there is no objectively optimal number of children.

There are other environmental factors in the equation as well. Some have been mentioned by my fellow jellies. I’m sure there are others not mentioned here yet.

But it’s both biology and environment—or more specifically—the interaction between the two that helps folks decide how many children to have.

Sunny2's avatar

Isn’t it instinct? The avoidance of conception is easier with today’s science, so it becomes a more certain thing to consider NOT having babies. I agree that people who don’t want to be parents, shouldn’t be. Unwanted children can grow up and be contributing citizens; but they can also be miserable people, depending on how the parents cope despite their aversion.

Coloma's avatar

I’m an only child of an only child and my daughter is my only child. She is 24 and she and her live-in boyfriend are not interested in having kids. I support that, it might change but she has always felt strongly about most likely, NOT having kids. Our family seems to be tapering off slowly. lol I strongly agree that people should not have children if they truly are unsure or do not want them. A much higher choice than to have kids with little forethought and then damage them by being resentful, negligent or unavailable.

I think it is more programming than biology these days.

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CWOTUS's avatar

As people (that is, “populations”) grow richer, they tend to have fewer children, and the birth rate can fall below the “replacement rate”. I’m not sure enough of the science behind that to say why that is, but it does seem to be a fact. That’s one of the things that political leaders of relatively well-off places such as Europe, North America and the better-off parts of Asia worry about: Their declining birth rate makes their cradle-to-grave social programs more expensive as the population ages. That’s happening big time in Japan now, and is starting in the US as well. I know that Italy has been wrestling with this “problem”.

OpryLeigh's avatar

I don’t think there has necessarily been an increase in the number of people not wanting kids but an increase in the amount of people admitting they don’t want kids. In eras gone by it was expected that you had a family by the time you reached your 30’s. Women were not expected to have careers like they do now, they were expected to be homemakers so, even if they didn’t want children, chances are they still wouldhave them at some point.

Nowadays it is more and more the norm for women to follow their ambitions in the work force and so more and more the norm for them to admit that children may not be at the top of their priorities list.

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