Child-free also goes by the term voluntary childlessness describes the voluntary choice not to have children. The term also extends to encompass the children of others (adoption) in addition to one’s own children which further distinguishes it from the term childless used to express the idea of having no children, whether by choice or by circumstance. This is a lifestyle that has come about as due to availability of reliable contraception along with availability of support in old age from sources such as government welfare programs, retirement homes, among other. The proliferation of these devices and amenities has given people an option to opt out of parenthood without losing anything in return.
Many reasons are cited for choosing the child-free lifestyle, among them:
- Personal and social: Simply not wanting to have children, Testimonies of parents who regret having children, Lack of regret of people who chose to not have children, Lack of desire to pass on one’s genes, Lack of a suitable partner, Unwillingness to sacrifice freedom and independence to rearing children, Preference of having a pet over a child, etc.
- Psychological and medical: The health of one’s partner does not allow for children, Revulsion towards the physical condition of pregnancy, the childbirth experience and recovery, Undesirable changes, brought about by pregnancy and child-birth, Having no maternal or paternal instincts, Existing or possible health problems e.g. genetic disorders or mental health issues that one does not want potential children to inherit, Perceived or actual incapacity to be a responsible and patient parent, etc.
- Economic and cultural: Unwillingness to pay the cost of raising a child, Being busy with work, Burden of taxes and debt, Stagnant or falling wages at the same time as high cost of living, Rejection of the claim that the country’s economy is at risk if some people do not procreate, etc.
- Philosophical: Belief that one can better contribute to the welfare of existing people than to produce even more, Belief that it is wrong to intentionally have a child when there are so many children available for adoption, Antinatalism, the philosophy asserting that it is inherently immoral to bring people into the world, The view that the wish to reproduce oneself is a form of narcissism, Ability to invest some of the time and money saved by not raising children to other socially meaningful purposes , etc.
- Environmental: View that human existence inflicts suffering upon other species just like the way they cause harm among themselves, Countering human overpopulation and its effects by not reproducing, Being the current environmental tragedies of global warming, pollution and 6th mass extinction is caused by human overpopulation, etc.
Child-free is often frowned upon in many communities because of the simple reason “we have not always done it like this” which is understandable but archaic reasoning all the same. Some opposed to the idea consider the child-free choice selfish. They rationalize their argument with the assertion that raising children is an important activity and thus not engaging in it must therefore mean living one’s life in service to one’s self. The value judgment behind this idea is that individuals should endeavour to make some kind of meaningful contribution to the world, but also that the best way to make such a contribution is to have children. In reality, choosing to have children may be the more selfish choice, especially when poor parenting risks creating many long-term problems for both the children themselves and society at large. David Benatar, a philosopher and author explains, at the heart of the decision to bring a child into the world often lies the parents’ own desires (to enjoy child-rearing or perpetuate one’s legacy/genes), rather than the potential child’s interests.
A recent study Prevalence and characteristics of childfree adults in Michigan (USA), sought to look at the parental status, life satisfaction, political ideology, personality traits and “warmth toward child-free women and men” of both parents and non-parents. The study distinguished child-free people (those who voluntarily choose not to have children or childless individuals who do not plan to have a child) from other types of non-parents such as “not-yet-parents” who plan to have children, and childless people who would have liked to have kids but couldn’t because of infertility or other circumstances.
The study found that individuals who are either childfree or childless (who do not plan to have a child) tend to have a higher education, are less likely to be married, are less likely to be religious, are less likely to have siblings, are more likely to participate in the labor force (for women) and are more likely to live in urban areas. Parents reported feeling “substantially less warm” toward child-free adults than the child-free individuals felt toward each other, a factor that could spill over to their career.
The study also found that there was no differences in life satisfaction and there was limited differences in personality traits between child-free individuals and parents, not-yet-parents, or childless individuals (who would have liked to have a child) with child-free individuals being significantly more liberal. The study also found that found that more than one in four (27%) people in Michigan identified as child-free, which is much higher than the estimated prevalence rate in previous studies (2-9%) that relied on fertility to identify child-free individuals, on the other hand, this study was better able to capture individuals who identify as child-free.
What made you decide to go child-free?