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11 Reasons People Choose Not to Have Children

The outrage over Chelsea Handler’s video is outdated and destructive.

Key points

  • People are making the choice not to have children more and more frequently.
  • The choice to have a child has tremendous ramifications and should never be taken lightly.
  • The decision to have or not have children is a deeply personal one.

Recently, Chelsea Handler, comedian, actress, writer, producer, and current stand-in for The Daily Show, released a short comedy video about the joys and perks of being childless. As with most comedy, the laughs were in the exaggerated content but it also touched on truths.

“It's amazing what you can do when you have this much free time,” Handler concludes in the view, before adding, “And that's a day in the life of a childless woman.”

Posted to social media on Feb. 10, the video has gone viral with over 6.7 million views, and has created a firestorm of debate, effectively highlighting how entrenched our societies’ views on women/females and parenthood remain. Conservative pundits mocked Handler and degraded her, referring to her as self-serving, hedonistic, narcissistic (and unloveable), while many other commenters on her video seemed to take her choice not to have children as a personal attack, defending the choice to have children as the best choice someone could make.

However, while many people's attitudes have not changed about having children, many have—people are making the choice not to have children more and more frequently. Although the majority of Americans have or want children, some 44 percent of non-parents ages 18 to 49 say it is not too likely or not at all likely that they will have children someday, according to a Pew Research Center Study.

The choice to have a child has tremendous ramifications for the parent (and the world) as well as the child(ren) and for this reason, should never be taken lightly. There are probably as many reasons why people chose not to have children as there are people, but here are some common reasons why people make that choice:

  1. No desire to have kids. This is the most common reason: people simply don’t want raising children to be what they do with their lives for 20 years. Perhaps they don’t like children all that much, or they don’t feel a desire to be a parent.
  2. Career. People feel passionate about the career they have chosen and want to devote their time, energy, and life to their job, which they would not be able to do as effectively if they had children.
  3. Environment. Children (more people) take resources and create pollution and waste. Some people who are aware of the environmental impact and the current state of the Earth are choosing not to add more people to the environmental impact.
  4. State of the world. Some people feel the world is not safe or moving in a positive enough direction to bring children into it.
  5. Kids are expensive. On average in the United States, it takes about $250,000 to raise a kid, not including the expense of sending a child to college. In more expensive parts of the country, this number can be significantly higher. Some people feel they cannot afford it.
  6. Health/medical reasons. This is one of the top reasons people decide not to have children—a risk to their own health and well-being, or inability to conceive.
  7. Other caretaking responsibilities and/or other children in their lives. Some people are already helping to raise other people’s children, or they are in a caretaking role for other adults. Perhaps they have a career in which they care for others. The rest of their time becomes a refuge from caretaking.
  8. Desire to travel. For some, experiencing other cultures, living a more nomadic life, or challenging themselves through adventure/travel is an important value and one that is not congruent with raising children.
  9. Lifestyle. There are people whose lives are dangerous. Others spend the majority of their time in meditation and/or spiritual pursuits. Some spend much of the time they are not at their jobs in creative pursuits. People who don’t have children generally have significantly more choices about their lives and time. Having a child could disallow them to continue the life they have chosen.
  10. Timing/partner doesn’t want kids. For some, they have chosen to spend their life with a partner who doesn’t want children. Others haven’t had the opportunity to be able to have children and then they are too old to have them.
  11. Family history/definition. For some people, their experience as a child and their family history has made it clear to them that they don’t want to continue their family legacy. They choose to define and create a family different from the traditional parents/children model.

If people feel free to make the choice to have or not have children, we will have fewer people who were raised by parents who didn’t want them or resented their presence. Furthermore, this choice is not selfish or irresponsible; in fact, it can be a responsible one and one that people have every right to enjoy, as Handler suggests. One person’s experiences or choices don’t have to exist in tandem with, or overshadow, anyone else's; they can be entirely unrelated. The decision to have or not raise children is a deeply personal one, and a choice people, as individuals, have a right to make—without apology or explanation owed to anyone.

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