There has been an unprecedented decline in childbearing in the Untied States over the last decade and a half. This change has been attributed to a number of factors, such as later marriage, fewer marriages, higher levels of female employment and education, and most remarkably, an apparent increase in voluntary childlessness (Silka and Kiesler: 1). The voluntary childless are those who do not have children, expect none, and have no known biological impediment to childbearing, or have been sterilized for contraceptive reasons (Abma and Peterson 1995).
These individuals have many personal, economic, and monetary reasons for a childless marriage and the majority of these women fit into one of four categories; practical, hedonists, idealistic, and emotional. Although, these couples vary in their reasons for not wanting children they have carefully examined the pros and cons of a childless family and made their choices accordingly. Couples today are less sure about the rationale for having children. In former times (and in many non-western cultures today), children were seen as playing an important role in the continuance of family.
Children may have been needed for kinship ties, to work on the family business, to look after parents in their old age, or to safeguard an inheritance. Presently, in Western society, the economy and the interests of industry have generally taken precedence over parenting and the interests of family (http:/wwwcfi. ie/feb2001/crisis. htm 3). There are two categories of women who wish to remain childless, as identified by Baum, which fit into this particular scenario. The first group of women falls under the heading of practical.
They have a practical reason for being childless, such as a desire to pursue their career without the interference of a family life, or the fear of passing on a genetic defect. The second group of women who share this viewpoint are hedonists. These women choose to remain childless through a desire to preserve their standard of living and who are unwilling to invest either time or money into raising children (Baum 1994). Working parents with children are faced with limited daycare options, lack of quality time with their children, and less influence over their childs developing values.
These difficulties alone may be enough in order to discourage many couples from having children. Day care services today are extremely expensive and the majority of the services are only offered during normal working hours (8am-5pm), making it difficult for families that work second or third shift jobs to find quality care for their child. Similarly, extended families are smaller now and more scattered. This adds to the already narrow band of available caregivers for children, leaving the parents with few daycare options.
With these constraints, parents may find it necessary to work rotating shifts, each spending part of day with the child while the other is at work. Many couples value their free time together and are not willing to stress their relationship in this way (Presser 1989). Today, more parents are working and the school day is starting earlier and finishing later. It is believed that children get forty percent less of their parents time than they did a generation ago, which means that children are getting more and more values from their peer groups rather than their parents.
This may make it impossible for parents to communicate their norms and values to their child. Working men and women do not have the same amount of quality time to spend with their children, as did their parents thirty years ago. Many who wish to remain childless know that they do not have time to create the type of relationship with a child that is necessary for the building of a parent-child bond or to bring the child up in the same manner in which they had been raised. They fear that building weak, mutually disrespectful relationship may turn their home life into a continuous struggle for power as the child grows.
Accordingly, couples today see many pros associated with voluntary childlessness. Responsibilities of becoming a parent have grown tremendously. The mass media today is filled with horror stories about teens on drugs, day care abuse, kidnapping, and school shootings. Children are extremely expensive at many points during their life (birth, teen years, college years). We live in a time of increasing economic uncertainty, making it hard enough for individuals to provide for themselves without dependent children.
Having children also increases active roles by parents, often spreading their resources too thin and placing too much stress on all relationships. For example, working mothers and fathers are expected to financially provide for their children, share quality time, divide household responsibilities (unfortunately many times this gets done according to gender), and continue a fulfilling relationship with their partner (Lunneborg and Chi 1999). The third category of women who wish to remain childless are considered idealistic.
These women do not want to bring a child into a world they feel is unsuitable, or who do not wish to contribute to overpopulation (Baum 1994). Many women (and men) feel that it would be ideal for residents of the U. S. and other overdeveloped countries not to have any children. The planets ability to sustain human life is rapidly decreasing. The rate at which we are currently consuming resources ensures their depletion in the future. These individuals feel that slowing or stopping the population growth in these nations may be our only hope for continued life on this planet.
The average child born in the U. S. will consume five to ten times more than the average child living in other countries (Schenk 1992). In short, they feel that overpopulation threatens to lower the quality of life for all on Earth. The last category of childless woman is the emotional women. Those in this category do not have emotional feelings for babies or children. Many women have simply never felt the drive to have children. They do not want to engage in child-centered activities and do not enjoy children very much. These women see raising children as stressful.
They do not feel that they have the patience or energy in order to be a mother. The majority of these women (and men) feel that they do not need to have children in order to consider their lives to be fulfilled (Presser 1989). The couples placed in the last two categories feel that there are additional positive aspects associated with a childless life. They prefer to enjoy other peoples children instead of having their own and do not feel that they or their partner would enjoy being a parent. Many individuals, especially working couples, want the extra time and space for themselves.
Some couples may not want to give up the time now spent on their own interests and recreation for a childs interests and/or they may want plenty of time for their own personal development and education (Lunneborg and Chi 1999). For many couples, it is the opportunity cost of children that leads them towards a childless life not merely the pros. There is also a long list of cons for remaining voluntarily childless. Many individuals wish to have children for primary group ties and affection. Children provide love and companionship to parents and many times, add a sense of fulfillment to their lives.
Many couples (especially those without a large amount of disposable income) see children as stimulation and a chance for a non-serious relationship and fun. Some individuals feel that by bearing children, it is an expansion of themselves. Parents feel that after death a part of them will live on inside their children (legacy). The status of being a parent also brings with it an illusion of stability and maturity. Children may also be a source of pride for parents, feeling fulfilled when their child succeeds. Many married couples worry about what will happen to them as they age.
Having children almost assures that parents will be taken care of in their old age (http://femrhet. cla. umn. edu/proposals/gillespir_rosemary. htm). The prominent view of children as a status symbol and a social identity still lives on to a certain extent. Married couples are still expected to have children. Although, voluntary childlessness became more acceptable in the 1980s, couples still feel the social pressure to have children (especially from family members). When deciding whether to bear children or to remain childless, couples must sort through many variables in order to make a unanimous choice on the issue.
Having children brings with it large opportunity costs for working mothers. In most cases, they must choose between putting their careers on hold for at least six years or placing their child in the hands of a full time caregiver. Children also bring additional expenses, responsibility, and consumption of free time to the family environment. For some couples, this choice is simple because they may not have the desire to bring a child into this already overpopulated world or they may not have any interest in becoming a parent, but for others this choice is a difficult one.