donation
To request Mental Health
Services or to access Mental
Health Crisis Services Call:
1-800-375-4357

Wellness and Personal Development
Resources
Basic InformationLatest News
Dealing With Grief in the Time of COVIDWould More Free Time Really Make You Happier?All Those Steps Every Day Could Lead to Longer LifeGot 'Zoom Fatigue'? Taking Breaks From the Camera Can HelpTrying Out a New Skin Care Product? Test It FirstDon't Forget to Apply Sunscreen Before & After Water FunFeel Guilty About 'Useless' Leisure Time? Your Mental Health Might SufferWant That Healthy Skin Glow? These Foods Can Get You ThereSit All Day for Work? Simple Step Can Cut Your Health RiskTry These 3 Tips to Lose Those Pandemic PoundsTake This Refresher on Skin Safety in Summer SunAll Sunglasses Not Equal When it Comes to Eye ProtectionThe Heat Is On: Staying Safe When Temperatures SoarDaylight Saving Time Change Toughest on Night OwlsMoney Can Buy Americans Longer Life: StudySleepless Nights Can Quickly Mess Up Your EmotionsSoaring Temperatures Bring Heat Stroke DangersShining a Light on SunscreensAnother Fireworks Hazard: Loss of HearingFireworks Deaths Spiked in Pandemic; Stay Safe This 4thAHA News: Embraceable, Healthy News: Hugging Is BackSurvey Finds Many Adults Don't Want Kids -- and They're HappyWhy Music at Bedtime Might Not Be a Great Idea'Plant-Based' or Low-Fat Diet: Which Is Better for Your Heart?Not Ready for Post-Pandemic Mingling? Expert Offers Tips to Ease AnxietyFewer Than 1 in 10 American Adults Get Enough Dietary FiberSummer Water Fun Can Bring Drowning Risks: Stay SafeAHA News: As the Mercury Rises, Follow These 5 Summer Survival TipsSleep Deprived? Coffee Can Only Help So MuchAmericans on the Move as Post-Pandemic Life BeginsSummer Safety Tips for the Great OutdoorsMany Americans Confused About Sunscreens: PollCity Parks: Safe Havens That Don't Raise COVID Infection RisksCan Some Movies Change Your Life? Maybe, Study FindsAlcohol Is No Friend to Social DistancingFeeling Down? Support Via Social Media May Not Be Enough'BPA-Free' Bottles Might Need a Run Through Your Dishwasher FirstAHA News: 5 Critical Steps to Help Prevent a StrokeWhat's the Right Amount of Sleep for a Healthy Heart?AHA News: Take Stock of Your Health With This Post-Lockdown ChecklistYou & Your Friends Are Vaccinated. So Why Is Socializing Again Scary?Even Before COVID, Many More People Died Early in U.S. Versus EuropeYour Zip Code Could Help or Harm Your BrainAHA News: 5 Things to Know This Earth Day About How the Environment Affects HealthPhysically Active at Work? It's Not as Healthy as Leisure ExerciseRe-focusing on Getting Fit? Heart Experts Offer These TipsNearly Half of U.S. Veterans Cited 'Personal Growth' During Pandemic: SurveyAHA News: The Secret to Good Health Is No Secret. So Why Is It So Hard to Achieve?'Couch Potato' Lifestyles Cause Up to 8% of Global Deaths: StudyHave to Travel During Spring Break? Here's How to Stay Safe
LinksBook Reviews
Related Topics

Smoking
Anger Management
Stress Reduction and Management
Weight Loss

Survey Finds Many Adults Don't Want Kids -- and They're Happy

HealthDay News
by By Amy Norton HealthDay Reporter
Updated: Jun 21st 2021

new article illustration

MONDAY, June 21, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- Marriage and children may be the norm for most Americans, but a new study shows that many people are choosing to remain child-free — and they're happy that way.

The study of 1,000 Michigan adults found that one-quarter had opted not to have kids. And, on average, their life-satisfaction ratings were no different from those of parents or people who planned to have children.

On one hand, the findings could be seen as surprising, according to study co-author Jennifer Watling Neal, an associate professor at Michigan State University in East Lansing.

In the United States, she said, it's still the norm for adults to start a family, and many people find a sense of fulfillment from having children. So it's possible that people without kids would, on average, be less satisfied with life.

But, Watling Neal said, it's important to distinguish between people who do not want to have children (the "child-free") and those who want kids but do not have them (the "childless").

"If people are living a life that's consistent with what they want, they tend to be more satisfied," Watling Neal said.

That point was echoed by James Maddux, a senior scholar with the Center for the Advancement of Well-Being at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.

Life satisfaction can come from understanding yourself and living according to those values, rather than trying to meet the expectations of society or family, he said.

Of course, following your desires is not a guaranteed path to happiness. Studies show that people are not actually all that good at predicting what will make them happy, Maddux noted.

Still, he said, people who really want children will probably be happier if they do have kids.

What was surprising, Watling Neal said, was the sheer number of people who were child-free.

Out of a representative sample of Michigan adults, 27% did not have children — nor did they plan or hope to have kids, biological or adopted. Many (over half) were single, but 35% were in a relationship, according to the report published online June 16 in PLOS One.

Since the findings are from one state, Watling Neal said, they cannot be assumed to reflect the nation as a whole.

Another open question is: Are the ranks of the child-free growing? This was a one-time survey, Watling Neal said, so it cannot point to any trends.

There is no doubt birth rates in the United States, and across the globe, have been tumbling in recent years. In 2020, the U.S. recorded its lowest birth rate since 1979, according to government statistics released last month.

It's unclear, though, to what extent those numbers might reflect a rise of the child-free. Many people may be having fewer children, or delaying starting a family.

But Maddux said it will be important to understand why people are choosing not to have children at all.

Declining populations have economic consequences, he noted, and governments will likely want to know why their citizenry is saying no to procreation: Is it, for instance, because raising kids has gotten too expensive?

The current study did not ask people the reasons for their choices. But the researchers did have them complete standard questionnaires on personality traits: Are child-free people more neurotic or more introverted, for example?

Again, though, there were no obvious differences between the child-free and either parents or people who wanted kids.

One difference did emerge, however.

When asked about political ideology, child-free people were typically "center-left," while parents tended to be more conservative. And the link between political beliefs and child-rearing decisions held up even after factors like education and age.

That does not mean that liberal views cause people to not want kids, Watling Neal said. The two qualities may just commonly co-exist.

How do other people view the child-free? This study found some evidence that they are regarded differently. People who had or wanted kids typically reported "less warmth" toward women and men who opted to remain child-free.

Exactly why is unknown. And, Maddux noted, the finding reflects only a statistical difference on a survey, and not necessarily people's real-life behavior.

It's possible, Watling Neal said, that some people see child-free adults as "selfish" or breaking from social norms.

But there's also another possibility, both she and Maddux said — envy of child-free folks' freedom.

More information

Planned Parenthood has advice on considering parenthood.

SOURCES: Jennifer Watling Neal, PhD, associate professor, psychology, Michigan State University, East Lansing; James Maddux, PhD, senior scholar, Center for the Advancement of Well-Being, George Mason University, Fairfax, Va.; PLOS One, June 16, 2021, online