The Childfree Personality–Are We More Introverted?

Psychology Today has an intriguing article on the topic of introversion. Even in our extrovert-oriented society, national samples suggest that introverts make up about half of the U.S. population –using Carl Jung’s definition of introversion, that is. However, the article discusses the many faces of introversion……and upon reading one aspect in particular, I could not help but think of the childfree.  I’ve talked to many childfree who describe themselves as sensitive to high levels of stimulation in their external environment.  According to the research, this can be a sign that they’re introverts.  Research tell us that there is a difference between how introverts and extroverts respond to external stimulation.  Extroverts like lots of external stimulation, introverts don’t.  They prefer more quiet environments.

As psychologist Laurie Helgoe writes, “Solitude, quite literally, allows introverts to hear themselves think. In a classic series of studies, researchers mapped brain electrical activity in introverts and extraverts. The introverts all had higher levels of electrical activity—indicating greater cortical arousal—whether in a resting state or engaged in challenging cognitive tasks.

The researchers proposed that given their higher level of brain activity and reactivity, introverts limit input from the environment in order to maintain an optimal level of arousal. Extraverts, on the other hand, seek out external stimulation to get their brain juices flowing.”

Introverts think better when their is not a lot of noise around them.  Studies also show that they learn best in quiet conditions, and not so for extraverts. Overall, introverts just do better when there is not too much external stimulation around them.

This idea made me think of how many childfree describe how they watch households of parents and kids and see how loud and “crazy” it can get. They know that that would just drive them bananas.  Also, many childfree may not prefer lives of solitude, but describe themselves as people who are sensitive to noise (and the many interpretations of what noise means), and prefer to have a quieter environment around them.

Other signals of introversion include saying yes to these questions:

Do you like to dive deeply into topics  (as opposed to knowing a little about a lot of things)?

Do you find socializing depletes your energy (as opposed to giving you energy)?

Do you prefer to think before you share your ideas (as opposed to being ok with thinking as you speak)?

Would you rather communicate your ideas via email (as opposed to say in-person brainstorming with a group of people)?

Do you/would you get tired if your job required meeting after meeting?

These are just a few. Check out Helgoe’s article for more.  Considering the aspects of introversion, as a childfree person do you consider yourself an introvert?  What aspect of introversion resonates most with you? Or are you less of an introvert? Why?

26 thoughts on “The Childfree Personality–Are We More Introverted?

  1. I think I’m introverted to, I prefer working alone, even though I get along just fine with others. I like being social with my friends and family sometimes, but if i am stuck in a house full of family at a gathering or something, then i usually find a corner somewhere to sort of hide and stay out of the way. I prefer not being where all the kids are. Helping raise two little brothers who were constantly fighting with each other definitely pushed me over the edge and made me not want kids.

    1. Yep, sound introverted to me…btw–thanks for links related to my articles and posts! You also have a great simple living list. Going to check into it~Thanks L

  2. Yes I am definitely an introvert. According to Helgoe’s book, Introvert Power (which is amazing, btw, and I already loaned it to one of my introverted friends), I think I’m actually a “socially accessible introvert.” Basically, I’ve learned to “fake” extroversion. I am pretty good at public speaking (I’m a teacher after all) and people tell me I’m friendly. I also try to maintain “open” body language in conversation and am usually articulate during interviews. But I had to learn it all. It didn’t come naturally, and after a day of interacting (especially after interacting with a bunch of kids!), I need my quiet home, journal, cats. Many people are surprised when I tell them I’m introverted and even more surprised when I say I don’t want kids. I just don’t have the mental, physical or emotional energy to dedicate to kids 24/7.

  3. Definitely an introvert here. Besides answering “yes” to the 5 questions shown in your piece, I was also struck by these two sentences you wrote:

    “This idea made me think of how many childfree describe how they watch households of parents and kids and see how loud and “crazy” it can get. They know that that would just drive them bananas.”

    That’s how I feel, too.

    Two summers as a day camp counselor pushed me to being childfree, too.

  4. I’m most definitely an introvert.

    Interacting with other people drains my energy. This isn’t to say that I dislike spending time with friends and family- I just need time alone later to recharge.

    The crazy bustle of many households that have children wasn’t one of my original reasons for choosing to be childfree, but not living in that environment it is a definite perk.

    What I find very interesting is all of the deep introverts I know who have decided to have children. There’s no doubt in my mind that they love their kids, and I’m in no way saying that introverts can’t be happy, healthy parents.

    I just don’t know how they do it on a purely _practical_ level. The needs of one’s child – especially in the first few years of life – can be very demanding. And it isn’t like a newborn or toddler an understand when Mom or Dad needs a break. By nature infants especially need what they need when they need it. It is only gradually that they become developmentally ready to practice what we as adults would call patience. 🙂

  5. I am quite the introvert. But I am an astounding faker and I know it. I’ve always preferred to work on my own, play on my own. If I want social interaction, I will seek it out, not the other way around. Which is ironic, as I used to be a preforming musician, did some theater, ice skating and dance, all very “extroverted” things. I really don’t mind parties and loud, busy activities with friends as long as I am “recharge”, per se. I’ve had so many people tell me I’m an “extrovert”…then I ask them how many parties I get invited to, or how many activities I do in college. Which really, isn’t that many.

    My SO is extremely introverted unless you really know him. It was such an interesting experience watching him open himself to me. He’s still very much an introvert, but he’s far more open with me than anyone else. We make a nice match, I’m open enough I get him out to do things, and he’s closed enough we both don’t overwhelm each other. 🙂

  6. I’m an introvert also, good to know there are so many others who feel like I do. Our society seems to frown upon this type of person, almost as though it’s unhealthy. I know it is something I can’t change about myself, and wouldn’t want to. I thrive when I have plenty of alone time and I truly enjoy solitude, can’t imagine a life without plenty of both. This is just one of the reasons that the idea of parenthood makes me cringe! Not just the constant noise and chaos, but having little people (who don’t understand the concept of personal space), around all the time, for many years. I also manage social situations very well, but only is small doses. The parental lifestyle certainly would demand an introvert the be out of their comfort zone most of the time, doesn’t look at all appealing to me.

  7. I’m definitley introvert!! A lot 🙂
    I need my own time and space and I married a man who is also this way so we can understand one another and respekt that.
    Has being childfree something to do with that? I don’t really know. I think it definitly could, I really NEED my peace and quite to be able to function normally…

  8. Maybe it’s a trend, but not the rule. I’m an extreme extrovert and I think that’s part of why we aren’t having kids. There are so many other fun and interesting people out there already!

  9. Interesting! I definitely feel like introversion has something to do with my desire not to have children. When I see the chaos in friends’ homes (who have children), I just want to retreat to a quiet place and recuperate. It’s like my senses are being assaulted! I also can’t stand the constant interruptions… it’s like being pecked to death by a chicken. Ha!

    Sometimes I think introverts are kind of like cats. We love others, but we definitely need a quiet, peaceful space to feel most comfortable. 🙂

  10. Myself- I am a big-time introvert and proud of that character trait 🙂

    I do not think introversion is more prevalent among Childfree people or extroversion is more prevalent in parents. However, I do think a lot of Childfree people have more opportunities to nurture their “introvert side” than a lot of parents do. Sometimes parents get thrown into social situations whether they want to or not. It’s usually for the sake of their children, their children’s friends (whom their children like to spend time with), and their children’s friends’ parents (who have a right to know who their own children are socializing with.) Not to mention all of the extended family, schoolteachers, bus drivers, neighbors, “creepy” strangers you warn the children about, and the list goes on.
    As a Childfree person, you still have to deal with people in some capacity when you venture out of your home. But, you have some control over how often you go out with friends vs staying at home or spending Christmas with the in-laws vs Christmas for one.

    Just my two cents 🙂

  11. Consider those who are evenly split on Meyers-Briggs extroversion scale. Since there seem to be advantages to both, does displaying qualities of both extroversion and introversion mean more adaptability? Or by not being solidly in either category does that eliminate the advantages of the deep richness of either?

    Two quick thoughts: 1)couples must work through this issue with love and respect—like all other compatibility issues; 2) parents of children who are opposite from their kids must not criticize or force the kid(s) to be what the parent is. After all, humanity should feature the biggest tent with room for all.

    1. Hi Rick! Definite advantages of being closer to the middle and Jung would say that this is the natural course of things as we get older. We begin to seek out “our inferior functions” — the word inferior bugs me as it is more of a preference but you get the idea. Because our society is extravert oriented, lots of introverts get very good at “extraverting” — this does mean they are getting closer to the middle on the scale however. On Jung’s type theory there is also the scale of Judging and Perceptive–that is the scale where relationships see the most disagreement–at leas that is what studies tell us. But more on that in a future post! ~L

  12. this is in response to Laura, maybe introvert parents decide to
    Only have one child, this is so true for me and my husband. We are
    Both introverts and we have only one child, a 7 year old daughter.
    She is so different from both of us, she is outgoing, loves socialising
    Takes part in loads of after school clubs but we do find it quite hard going
    When she has friends round and they can get quite rowdy, but on the
    Whole we can live more or less the introvert life that we used to live
    That is why we chose to have one as we didn’t want to deal with
    Arguments between 2 and wanted a fairly peaceful life.

  13. My husband and I are both introverts and have decided on one child as well. I’m a member of an online group for parent of only children and it seems that about 75% of them are introverts, which would be a misrepresentation of the human population. I do think many introverts who want to be parents choose to have an only child. You get to experience being a parent on a more balanced scale, and still get some time to recharge.

    1. Sandy, That is an interesting observation and it does makes sense that introverts might do better with one child. Even extroverts I know said when the third (and last) came that sent things into chaos…at least for awhile! ~L

  14. I’ve been wondering the same thing! I decided on being childfree by choice at about the same time I realized I was an introvert, in my late 30’s. (I put off dealing with both these things for way too long.)

    I need lots of alone time to recharge. I don’t like people who are loud, needy, or out of control. I have to have quiet, alone time in order to be a sane, functioning person. I can only take other people in small doses. When you combine these with the fact that a child is a person(!) and that new person will be in your house for more or less two decades, the conclusion was pretty clear. I would say my personality is a major reason that I’m childfree. It’s a much bigger factor than the whole “pressure on the environment” thing.

  15. I knew I didn’t want children at a very young age. I attribute it partly to growing up in a large, busy city and partly to commercials about pollution and over-crowding that were popular back in the 70’s. I remember the “projects” where people lived in highrises because they couldn’t afford anything else. Also, my mom influenced me not to want kids – as did many of the TV stars of the time – like Mary Tyler Moore for example.

    It never changed. I don’t consider myself overly introverted as I really enjoy people but I don’t like crowds of anonymouse people.

  16. Am 34 and am at the age where most of my friends are on their second or third child already. I have one, and both my husband and I (introverts for sure), can’t figure out how we could handle another, or why it would be desirable. Our child is already showing herself to be an introvert too and we love the peace and quiet of our household. Seems like we have a great balance, not worth upsetting.

  17. I would probably define myself as more of an introvert than anything else. I’ve never liked large social gatherings, for example, and usually avoided big parties for that reason. Small gatherings I am okay with, but after a while, I find reasons to head home.

    I’m a “done after one” parent, and have never wanted another child, as I knew that both the noise level and the extra responsibilities would only increase. The early years of parenthood are difficult and stressful enough, and I had NO desire whatsoever to repeat them. DS, who is now a young adult, happily has the same introverted disposition I do, and has always enjoyed our quiet home.

  18. I think the fact that so many childfree people are introverts and/or “Highly Sensitive People” really undermines that stereotype of childfree people that says we’re all just party animals who don’t want to settle down and give up our exciting, rowdy lifestyles.

    I don’t want children in large part because I want peace and quiet and privacy. I am actually very “settled down,” thank you very much. I’m not really one of those people who’s childfree in order to travel around the world and have adventures in far-off lands. That’s a perfectly valid reason to me, by the way, but that’s not my particular motivation.

    1. While I agree that there are a lot of introverted childfree, and some that would consider themselves “highly sensitive people,” I have also interviewed and come in contact with lots of extroverted childfree–although not the partying stereotype you speak of. I believe we’re certainly a heterogenous group…sure would be great to do a whoppin personality study though to hone in. Also, a lot of HSP’s Have Kids–I bet many have unspoken “aaahh!” or even regret because with kids, peace, quiet and privacy surely diminish!

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