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Saturday, 10 May 2008

More research into the decision to have children or not

I found this article about whether deciding not to have children can be considered a selfless act in order to save the envrionment. It also looks at whether research that shows that having children leads to greater unhappiness in marriage is valid or not.

I have been interested in the phenomena of some environmentalists calling on people to have no or fewer children. It does seem like a plausible arguement. But this author debunks that. I don't really agree with his views that not having children is a reflection of our selfish society - as I've said elsewhere, I think there are many, many ways that people who are childfree can live out selfless and giving values - like volunteering, caring for older people, mentoring etc.

6 comments:

Emma said...

The contention that childfree people are selfish is old, tired, and untrue. Or, at the very least, it's no more true for people who choose to live their lives childfree than it is for people who choose to have children. Both groups are doing exactly what they want to do, no? The notion that having children is some huge selfless act is a pile of crap. People have children because they want to have children, not because they think it's somehow helping society as a whole. If they were that selfless, they'd adopt.

The difference, however, is that the choice NOT to have children doesn't affect the rest of society...it doesn't require any more schools to be built, it doesn't require tax relief, and it doesn't require the use of more and more resources.

And, judging from the percentage of people who are remaining childfree, although that number has grown over the past couple of decades, it's nowhere near a significant enough portion of the population to affect society. Especially when you have people like Jim Bob and Michelle Duggars who are having their 18th kid. That makes up for quite a few childfree people.

womaninawindow said...

Oh, I considered this long ago being young and full of ideas. And then I saw a sleeping child and I thought, wow, I could do that. It was a revelation!

UKShell said...

This article by A Brooks annoys me.
The author is talking about two subjects 1) whether having children can make you predominantly ‘happier’ in life 2) whether it is sensible to forgo children for the sake of the environment/planet.

My first gripe is why on earth would you lump those two subjects within the same article? It’s a bit of a mish mash to me. The result is that neither topic is done justice.

I also dislike this comment too, in the way it’s phrased. I don’t disbelieve the statement per-se, but it’s as if the author is hoping that the reader will be misread the below quote:

“Economists estimate that the net benefits to society from children are, on average, significant and positive….”
to mean:
“….and therefore a net benefit to the environment”

I nearly assumed that myself that, before I caught myself, but that could just be me.

The author talks about the socio-economic values of having children ($100,000) and how this can be used to benefit the planet. I see this as a long two step process that won’t even guarantee the ‘surplus’ money being spent in the right area’s (more military weapons anyone?). This quote sums it up nicely with the emphasis on one word in particular.

“What we *choose* to do with this public surplus per child is obviously up to us”

Sure, children may overall make money for the government in the long run with an overall net, but how does that compare with how much the poor parents spent on raising the child/ren? How does that compare to the amount of resources/carbon foot print used in bringing up the child in the first place, and as an adult for the rest of it’s life?

The next quote that bugs me:
“use our resulting public wealth increases to ensure the preservation of our natural environment”
If we had less people in the world we wouldn’t have to try so hard in preserving the ‘natural environment’?! Why have a ‘no-guarantee’ two step process (more kids = better socio-economic stability = maybe your government will spend some money to help the environmental causes) when you can just have a one step process of having fewer [or no] children right now?

And he rounds the whole piece with a totally inappropriate quote from W.C. Fields. It doesn’t fit in with topic 1 or 2 that he is supposedly discussing. Had the report been “How are societies attitudes changing towards children nowadays” then I could have accepted that quote being in there. He’s left it right until the end (after all the environmental talk) in, what I think, is a terrible attempt to link environmentalists as child-haters.

So in conclusion, in having children, you’ll be less happy (unless [a] you’ve had over 5 children, and/or until [b] they leave home) and you *may* eventually (should your government choose to spend the money in the right places) have helped out towards environmental projects and saving the planet.

Sorry, a bit of a long response, but I got ranting...

Kidfree Kaye said...

The above comments from Emma and Ukshell are very well worded and thought out! I couldn't agree more. First, Emma is correct that saying that "The contention that childfree people are selfish is old, tired, and untrue." It should be very obvious that people have kids for their satisfaction (not to help our GNP!), just as the childfree don't have them because they don't them. Ironically, though, some childfree that I surveyed are not having them because they do not want to pass along their genetic physical or mental disorders, a reason which I see as very NON-selfish.

Then "Ukshell's" comments about Brooks' poorly written article are totally accurate. His article jumps around to about 4 different themes, and is very poorly thought out. He does not make an argument for why having no children would NOT help the environment, but instead flips to the topic of how it helps society economically.

I have an online survey for any of you who would like to take it who are childless or childfree:
http://tinyurl.com/2lcjah

The results wil be published in my book called "Kidfree & Lovin' It."

Enjoy!

Kaye

Beth said...

My main problem with the article is that somehow you can find an economic formula to the secret of happiness - I don't think it works like that. I've been unhappy when I didn't have a child and I've had unhappy moments with a child. I've known really happy people - some have kids, some don't.

Happiness isn't down to what you do - whether you have kids or not. But I think it's about who you are, who you are being.

Thepeteo said...

Good for you UKShell, when I read that pathetic article I was filled with precisely the same feelings as you and came here to comment only to find you had already written precisely what I was thinking - You got it to a T. What a badly written, poorly researched, judgemental piece of rubbish. So many assumptions, so little fact, no references, all opinion and shaky at that. I'm still inwardly laughing at the premise that US economic growth means investment in environmental protection. That's like saying that the US arms industry preserves peace in the Middle East! Here are some facts for Brooks to contemplate.

1) Western Europe and the USA are overpopulated.
2) The ancient forests of Europe are all but gone.
3) The ancient forests of the USA are in sharp decline with many valuable tree species dying out at an unsustainable and frightening rate.
4) People (and animals) need these forests to survive.

Summing from the above; trees ARE more important than people.

Crikey, I sound like an eco-warrior but I'm not, just felt moved to write this after reading Brooks' nonsense.