Updated 15 September 2014

Is it wrong to not want kids?

As world population swells to 7.3 billion, more people are choosing to go "child-free" - but still feel criticised by "breeders", they say.

“I don't want to bring a child into the world.”

Never before in history, except perhaps in times of war, have so many people of child-bearing age come to this conclusion. In our time, there's a new reason that gives potential parents pause: the world simply can't hold so many of us.

In the time it takes to say “World Population Day” (Friday 11 July 2014), two more members join our greatly extended human family. (About 6 people are born and 4 die every second.)

Read: How many kids are too many?

We now stand at close on 7.3 billion, a number resource experts say the planet can't sustain.

The world is not enough

We currently need about 1.6 Earths to provide sufficient resources and absorb waste for all of us; if everyone lived at the consumption levels of the average US citizen, we'd need about six Earths.

Under the circumstances, you'd expect that society would respect, even encourage the choice to remain childless, but many “child-free” people say this isn't the case.

Shrinking families

Certainly, the tide has turned against very large families; vociferous public criticism of the "Octomom” with her eight children, and reality TV's Duggar family, of “19 and counting” fame, attest to this.

In the 1960s, having four or five kids was common for affluent families; now, two or three, or even just one, is more the norm.

But none at all is a choice that still raises eyebrows.

Read: Parents no happier than childless couples

Some example of the societal reactions childless people report:

“You have to account for yourself in a way people with kids don't. No one asks 'Why did you decide to have kids?'  but they do ask why you didn't. The reasons are obvious: overpopulation is destroying the planet. And anyway, it's rude! What if you have fertility problems? It's no one's business unless you bring it up yourself." - Jane, 43

“I feel people with kids don't respect my time as much.There's a trend now to take meals to parents when they have a new baby; I feel subtle pressure to help out more than their friends with kids. I like children, but if you choose to have them, you get all the pluses that brings, but also the minuses i.e. you should do the work yourself.” - Ann, 36

Super-breeders: Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar with their brood. (Credit: TLC)

And some observations from people with children:

"Deciding not to have kids is just a very pessimistic view: 'everything's terrible so let's give up'. Having kid is about hope for the future - that maybe we can make the world a better place." - Joseph, 29

"I have two small boys, and in public places (restaurants, on the plane) some people don't hold back showing they're not welcome - just a nuisance. So don't have kids, fine, but give those who're keeping the human race going a break!" - Tamsyn, 40.

What's your experience in 2014 of of the childed – childless divide? Is there really a divide, or is there in fact common ground? Let us know in the comments below.

Read more:
World not ready for ageing population
7.3 billion...and counting
To breed or not to breed?

Image: crowded world from Shutterstock

Olivia Rose-Innes is Health24’s EnviroHealth Editor. Read more of her columns and articles or post a question to her expert forum.


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