There was a headline on AOL Health this morning the read, “Number of Women Without Children Reaches All Time High.” I don’t know about you, but that grabbed my attention. According to the Pew Research Center, 1 in 5 women do not have children, compared to 1 in 10 in the 1970′s. Wow, that seems like quite a jump to me!
This trend of childlessness seems to hold true across racial, ethnic, and educational groups. Surprisingly, the only group that increased in childbearing were women with advanced degrees (such as a master’s or doctoral level.) However, women with an education still tend to be those most likely not to give birth. Childless rates have also increased for blacks, Hispanics and Asians- making it a universal trend.
The article explained this trend in part by the pattern that has been seen of women delaying marriage, and, therefore, the age of beginning their family. Included in these statistics are the women who may want to have a child, but, for one reason or another (often because of age,) discover that they can no longer conceive. Marriage and parenthood have also been delayed because of increased career opportunities and more effective birth control. In addition, many stated that they were having fun and just didn’t want the responsibility.
Of most interest to me in the article were the changing attitudes of society towards childlessness. Public opinion is showing more acceptance of women without children. In 1988, 61% thought that women without children “lead empty lives.” In 2002, that had decreased to 41%, and today it is even lower. Less and less people also believe that children are important for a successful marriage, or that the childless trend is bad for society.
Personally, I find this whole trend a little sad. Of course, people should have the right to choose to have children or not. I just don’t always think they know what they are depriving themselves of. I have a friend who was given a lot of responsibility in helping to raise her younger siblings and decided early on that she never wanted to have children of her own. She and her husband have done a lot of traveling and, for many years, her life seemed pretty carefree. However, now that all of her friends have grown-up children and grandchildren, she has a lot of regrets. I’ve also thought about what my life would be like without my adult offspring and my grandson, and I know that I would have lost a lot.
So, what do you think? Is childlessness by choice a dangerous trend? Or, is it none of our business? I’d love to hear from you!
Keeping it true! Barb