Is It Time for the Rebirth of The National Alliance for Optional Parenthood?

Laura Carroll, childfree choice

Have you ever heard of the National Alliance for Optional Parenthood (NAOP)? It existed from 1972 to 1982. A non-profit organization, its purpose was to “educate the public on non-parenthood as a valid lifestyle option, support those who choose not to have children, promote awareness of the overpopulation problem.”

It “advocated having no children (or no more than one child) and not having children at all before the age of twenty-one.” It had three offices in Maryland and Washington D.C. and was funded by some of the most respected foundations, including Rockefeller Brothers and the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation.

In the Hewlett Foundation’s 1981 annual report, it described NAOP as an organization that “encourages young people to make thoughtful and responsible decisions about parenting by trying to reduce the impact of societal pressures that equate success or growing up with parenthood.”

NAOP was known as the group that fought the “must-have-baby” pressure. It did some great work, including media-outreach programs, a national referral network of  people who counseled or presented workshops on decision-making about parenthood, and had a volunteer network in thirty states.  It developed tools for school counselors and teachers that remain in publication today, including their most widely-distributed publication titled, “Am I Parent Material?”

According to childfree wiki, members were single, married, both parents and non-parents alike.  “An estimated 69% were married, 6% divorced, 16% single, with 49% self-identified atheist or agnostic. NAOP even celebrated a Non-Mother’s Day, a Non-Father’s Day and had annual awards.

I am going to do more homework on this organization–find and ask the founders or members about the story behind why they had to close their doors (all I can find so far is it was due to financial difficulty).  I believe one is Ellen Peck, the author of Pronatalism: The Myth of Mom and Apple Pie.  I will write more when I get more info…

Do you know anything more about this organization? Have others existed since that are similar in mission? Do any exist today? I have run across population groups but not ones that are also dedicated to educating young people about parenthood and that it is an option in life, not the option, and to being a more formal support network for the childfree.

I think it is high time for an organization like this to exist again–don’t you?

14 thoughts on “Is It Time for the Rebirth of The National Alliance for Optional Parenthood?

  1. I have always been a supporter of zero population groups, birth control advocates (for both feminist and ecological reasons), and “no unwanted children” groups. This is the first I have heard of this organization and I believe it would be brilliant to have it return into the public sphere.

    Thanks for the information!

  2. I associate “No unwanted children” as a slogan for many groups that seek abortion rights and reproductive freedom. Philosophical and humanist campus groups come to mind over general NOW and Planned Parenthood groups. Of course, the religious zealot response is that God wants these children so the premise of unwanted is somehow false. I remember campus humanist groups in Idaho and Louisiana that had t-shirts made up in response to this kind of argument. One of them read, “If God wants kids, let him pay child support!” and another read “GOD: the first deadbeat dad!” It caused a fair amount of ripples but the point was pretty clear.

  3. I totally comply with NAOP’s idea of not having children by choice.. there are some people like me.. who feel .. there is really no need.. no want… no desire.. no worth.. to bring a child on this earth.. and the system of must have babies after marriage.. seems stupid.. it should be by choice and not compulsion

  4. Better not 2 have them than to have them and abuse, neglect them. or 2 give no disciplin.

  5. Hi Laura,
    I feel the main reason for the breakdown of the NAOP is differing opinions. I can already see a schism forming within the childfree movement. I think it happens in most groups. Some members think we should be more extreme while others think we should try to integrate parents into our group. Organization is another key ingredient to group cohesion. There are many different childfree organizations. I started a meetup group in Indiana but was encourage by some of my members to change it to a “No Kidding” chapter. I am happy I have changed my status but I think “No Kidding” is a social group. I intend for my group to be a hybrid. Our group was recently in the local paper about being childfree in Indianapolis. I’d like it if you could keep me posted if you discover more information NAOP and if there’s hope of starting another national group. I am READY for change!

    1. Francesca, thanks for writing! I am motivated to re-start up the NAOP and am currently thinking of a way to do this as part of my next book coming out, which will get at the pronatalist heart of things. I agree that it should welcome parents who want to promote the reality that parenthood is Optional! Stay tuned….

  6. I also had not heard of this organization but I actually headed a No Kidding! chapter several years ago. As others have written, I found it very splintered and after a while it kind of died. My interest, as part of a married couple who were childfree, was to find other singles and couples to socialize with who were not hampered by child-rearing duties. our group though got poisoned by more militant “anti-children” members who really wanted to push a more political agenda than what I had in mind. Eventually people stopped coming to the meetings, maybe because of that or maybe just because there was not much ELSE in common to hold us together.

    As a single now, I looked into childfree online dating sites and was very disappointed at what I found. I found a couple of them, but not any that had any type of membership to speak of. Try finding a childfree man in his 30s-40s to date that isn’t gay! 🙂 Maybe I could talk to No Kidding! about running a dating site for them…..

    1. Trisha, thanks for writing. Too bad about the No Kidding! experience. When I was looking for couples to interview for Families of Two, so many couples agreed to be interviewed and be part of the project because they hoped they would meet like-minded childfree…there still need to be more ways for us to find each other. The digital world has made it a lot easier in the last decade, but there is nothing like socializing in person. I did an On-the Ground question on childfree dating awhile back–in case you did not see it check it out

  7. Hi Laura – Late to the party, but I was a relatively early member of NON/NAOP and was its president at the time we “went out of business” in 1982. If you’re interested in learning more about the organization, send an email.

    Happy Non-Parents’ Day (August 1st).

  8. Hey Laura,

    I think we do need to band together and bring this organization back. Long term goal: tax breaks and incentives for NOT having children and adding to overpopulation and taxpayer burdens. There are a bunch of childfree groups on Facebook, now, such as childfree chicks (and childfree chicks confidential), childfree by choice, and hundreds of others. I am down for bringing this organization back, and I know many others are, too.
    We need to band together.

    1. I am with you…at the very least to start, have mandatory equitable leave policies that don’t discriminate against people with no children. Turning tax breaks and incentives on their heads to reward adoption and no more than one biological child per family is going to take many people seeing through the pronatalist baby matrix, and understanding the many negative societal impacts of pronatalism …Chipping away at pronatalism will have to come first before laws can be made that are truly in the best interest for all in today’s society…

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