Understanding the childfree: When not having children becomes a choice

What is the difference between childless and childfree? 

Sadly, there are many people who are eager to become parents but can’t due to biological reasons, such as infertility. However, there are other individuals who don’t aspire to raise children. As Psychology Today suggests, they should not be classified as childless, but as childfree.

A recent study called “Prevalence and characteristics of childfree adults in Michigan” highlights the difference between the two categories, as well as parents and people planning to become parents. The four groups were compared on their satisfaction with their lives, their political ideology, and their personalities. Meanwhile, the childfree adults were also differed by marital status, gender, or race.

Furthermore, people presenting each group were asked how they felt about childfree men and women.

The 981 volunteers with an average age of 51 were then asked three key questions.

Groups were later distinguished based on their answers to the following questions:

  1.  Do you have, or have you ever had, any biological or adopted children?
    Those who answered yes were the parents.
  2.  Do you plan to have any biological or adopted children in the future?
    Those who answered positively after answering no to the previous question were the planning to have children.
  3. Do you wish you had or could have biological or adopted children?
    Those who answered yes to this question after answering no to the first two were classified as childless.
    Those who answered no to all three questions were the childfree.

It was estimated that 54% were parents, 27% were childfree, 12% were planning to have children, and 8% were childless. 

It is important to note that the study examined only people in Michigan. However, it is believed that the state’s population is similar to the overall U.S. population when it comes to race, age, income, and education.

The researchers found out that 54% of the childfree adults had never been in a couple. Additionally, 35% of them had a romantic partner. The remaining 11% were divorced, separated, or widowed.

Interestingly, the people presenting the childfree category did not differ in personality, education, age, and other potentially relevant factors from the other participants in the study. Besides, they were just as happy with their lives as everyone else. However, they were found to be more politically liberal than the parents.

Despite having little to no differences, all the other groups felt less warmly towards the childfree than they felt toward one another. 

The childfree individuals were not complaining about not having kids – it was simply their choice. And that’s what appeared to bother the rest of the respondents.

In today’s society, adults are supposed to want to create a family and have children. Those who choose not to follow that pattern are often criticized. Social psychologist Bella DePaulo, author of the book Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After, comments:

“We’re all supposed to head down the path of marrying and having kids. We don’t have to, of course, but if we don’t, we will be judged.”

Where do you stand on this issue? Let us know in the comment section!

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