I’ve been tracking the childfree choice since the late 1990’s, and at the end of 2012 I posted a short poll to take an informal pulse on people’s views of its acceptance in today’s society. Thanks again to all of those who weighed in! Here is what I asked, and a few thoughts on the results.
In response to the question, “How Accepting is Society of the Childfree Choice?” I asked respondents to select one of these statements that best reflected what they thought:
1. Major social progress! Today it’s by and large accepted.
2. Acceptance has come a long way in the last decade, but we’re not quite there.
3. More accepted today than 10 years ago but we still have a ways to go.
4. Hardly accepting – we sure have a long ways to go.
Which would you choose?
Of the almost 700 responses: 4 percent chose the first statement, 16 percent selected the second, 58 percent the third, and 22 percent the fourth.
Which statement would I pick? I am with the majority who think there has been some progress, but there is still a ways to go.
The childfree choice is definitely more out there and talked about than a decade or so ago. And overall, having no childfree by choice is more socially accepted than a decade ago. However, today one thing I see more of is what I call the “Not in My Family” or “NIMF Effect.”
More people seem to accept the childfree choice in general, but less so when it hits close to home. In other words, it’s more OK for those people don’t know to make this choice, but when it comes to family members, loved ones, and/or friends who make this choice, concerns, judgments, and pressure to change their minds still kick in.
How we have a ways to go also relates to what Lisa Belkin wrote over a decade ago in her article, “Your Kids Are Their Problem.” Her discussion of the policy and workplace laments of author Elinor Burkett’s still ring very true. From a tax policy and workplace standpoint, unfortunately Burkett’s book, Baby Boon: How Family-Friendly America Cheats the Childless also remains very relevant today, and can still be summed up with Burkett’s view then that our “political and economic structure” relegates the childless to second-class citizens.”
At its core, accepting the childfree choice means changing a long-held, embedded cultural paradigm. And that paradigm has its roots in pronatalism. For the majority to choose the first statement in the poll, more people need to understand pronatalism, how and why it remains a social control pushed by power structures to promote reproductive conformity, and how this negatively affects all of us, parents and not, in today’s society.
My predictions for the rest of this decade include some optimism for more progress. From Gen X’ers who have the highest reported numbers of people having no children by choice to date, to Gen Y/Millennials, more people are beginning to realize important truths behind pronatalist beliefs. With this knowledge, more people from these generations will have the courage to say no to reproductive conformity.
For the rest of this decade and beyond, I remain committed to chipping away at pronatalism, and to seeing the day when the results of this poll will have its majority checking statement number one!
In your view, what actions need to be taken for this to happen?