Monday, July 12, 2010

MSN runs article on childless couples and the "selfishness" argument

MSN offered a balanced article on the “debate” over childlessness today, by Birana Mowrey, with with link here.  The title is blunt: “Is Being Childfree by Choice Selfish?” If refers to a subplot in the New Line film “Sex in the City 2” where one of the couples (Carrie and Big) chooses to remain childless.

The mentions a book by Laura Carroll “Families of Two: Interviews with Happily Married Couples without Children by Choice”, as well as a Redbook article “How many kids should you have?” that does not seem to appear online,

Wikipedia has an article on “Chilldfree” which it says can be termed “childless by choice” and has a section “the Selfish argument” that summarizes as follows: “The rationale of this position is the assertion that raising children is a very important activity (childfree author Virginia Postrel calls it "the most important work most people will ever do"), and so not engaging in this activity must therefore mean living one's life in service to one's self.”

However, childless people generally don’t follow any particular ideology. There have been some groups in the past called “No Kidding” and “the Child Free Network”.

There is a lot of disagreement over the population issue. In the past, it was assumed that more people would use up world resources more rapidly, but the problem is partly that societies with higher living standards impact the planet a lot more per person. Having children generates “generativity” – an investment in one’s biological future. The “demographic winter” argument points out that fewer workers must support more people with long life spans in disability, but it’s possible to expand life spans in good health and pressure employers to keep people longer. “Any healthy culture is child-centric because the future rests with our children,’ said Allan Carlson of the Family Research Council. “These (No Kidding!) peop;le are copping out on the future, refusing to accept the standard obligation for responsible membership in our society. I would describe them as childish, immature and irresponsible.”

The other hooker in this whole subject is the role of gay and lesbian families, which must adopt (or use surrogates) to have children. Usually childlessness has been discussed in the context of heterosexual couples who could have children.

When I grew up in the 1950s, there were more childless couples and only children (and single adults) than one would expect, even then.

The main "opposing viewpoint" books on this issue still seem to be Eleanor Burkett's "The Baby Boon: How Family-Friendly America Cheats the Childless" in 2000, vs. Phillip Longman "The Empty Cradle" (2004) and maybe Carlson-Mero's "manifesto" "The Natural Family" (2007).

Remember, some people don't really have a "choice" on this. Particularly in developing countries, older teens wind up raising their siblings, and movies have been made about having to raise a subling's or relative's children.

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