Despite the fact that birthrates across the United States have been decreasing in recent years which indicates that more people are choosing not to have children, there is still a surprising amount of moral outrage that these people face, even from complete strangers, whether they know it or not. This study done on 197 undergraduate students in the psychology major had these surprising results.
Participants in the study were asked to evaluate one of four imaginary people, a man, and woman that married but chose not to have kids and a man and woman who married and chose to have two children. Students were then given two sets of questions, one in which they evaluated how psychologically-fulfilled they believed their subject was, and one to determine how they felt about that person’s decision.
The results of the first set of questions were nearly the same as results from similar studies that have been done over the years to evaluate how people perceive couples that chose not to have children. It was the addition of the second set of questions that set this study apart, as it showed how the evaluators felt about the decision of others.
Across the board, participants in the study stated that they believed that the individuals that chose to have children were more psychologically-fulfilled compared to those who didn’t. This is a stereotype that has been seen since the 1950’s as it’s believed that people have a moral obligation to have children and therefore don’t lead fulfilling lives if they don’t live up to that.
Both male and female participants were found to feel some degree of moral outrage or disgust towards the people that didn’t want to have children. These couples who voluntarily don’t reproduce are seen as being abnormal and even in the wrong. In fact, this moral imperative to have children could very well be why so many people see abortion as wrong.
One of the surprising things about these results was the fact that both men and women were seen as equally wrong in their decision to not have children. This is surprising based on the fact that there is so much attention being given to women’s rights in the media today. However, these results are also typical when compared to previous studies done on the subject.
It is likely that this stigmatization against couples that choose to be childless will continue since nothing has changed in the previous 40 or so years of studies covering this phenomenon. The problem lies with the belief that having children is simply the way it’s supposed to be, so people naturally feel outraged against those who are going against society’s expectations.
However, it’s important that these beliefs be addressed and that this idea that people need to have children are changed because everybody has the right to choose whether or not they have children. Couples and individuals alike should not have to face judgment and outrage when they make decisions about themselves and their own lives.
Instead, the freedom to choose should be celebrated.