A quarter of adults don’t want children and they’re still happy, research on child-free people finds.
As more people acknowledge they simply don’t want to have kids, Jennifer Watling Neal and Zachary Neal, both associate professors in Michigan State University’s psychology department, are among the first to dive deeper into how these “child-free” individuals differ from others.
“Most studies haven’t asked the questions necessary to distinguish ‘child-free’ individuals—those who choose not to have children—from other types of nonparents,” Jennifer Watling Neal says.
“Nonparents can also include the ‘not-yet-parents’ who are planning to have kids, and ‘childless’ people who couldn’t have kids due to infertility or circumstance. Previous studies simply lumped all nonparents into a single category to compare them to parents.”
The study in PLOS ONE uses a set of three questions to identify child-free individuals separately from parents and other types of nonparents. The researchers used data from a representative sample of 1,000 adults who completed Michigan State’s State of the State Survey, which the university’s Institute for Public Policy and Social Research conducted.
“After controlling for demographic characteristics, we found no differences in life satisfaction and limited differences in personality traits between child-free individuals and parents, not-yet-parents, or childless individuals,” Zachary Neal says. “We also found that child-free individuals were more liberal than parents, and that people who aren’t child-free felt substantially less warm toward child-free individuals.”
Beyond findings related to life satisfaction and personality traits, the research unveils additional unexpected findings.
“We were most surprised by how many child-free people there are,” Jennifer Watling Neal says. “We found that more than one in four people in Michigan identified as child-free, which is much higher than the estimated prevalence rate in previous studies that relied on fertility to identify child-free individuals. These previous studies placed the rate at only 2% to 9%. We think our improved measurement may have been able to better capture individuals who identify as child-free.”
Given the large number of child-free adults in Michigan, the group warrants more attention, the researchers say. For example, the researchers explain that their study only includes one point in time, so didn’t examine when people decided to be child-free. However, they hope forthcoming research will help the public understand both when people start identifying as child-free as well as the factors that lead to this choice.
Source: Michigan State University