As It Happens: I’m not the only one talking about this

The day after I write about the right to be Childfree and valid reasons for choosing to be, news of a study shows the same “moral outrage” against Childfree people that atheists and LGBTQIA people have endured before.

IUPUI study finds participants feel moral outrage toward those who decide to not have children

Feb. 28, 2017

INDIANAPOLIS — Data representing individuals from across the United States indicates that U.S. adults are increasingly delaying the decision to have children or forgoing parenthood entirely. Yet evidence suggests that voluntarily child-free people are stigmatized for this decision, according to a study published in the March 2017 edition of Sex Roles: A Journal of Research.

Leslie Ashburn-Nardo, an associate professor of psychology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, recently investigated this bias against those who choose to not have children.

“What’s remarkable about our findings is the moral outrage participants reported feeling toward a stranger who decided to not have children,” Ashburn-Nardo said. “Our data suggests that not having children is seen not only as atypical, or surprising, but also as morally wrong.”

The findings are consistent with other studies of backlash against people who violate social roles and other stereotypic expectations. When people violate their expected roles, they suffer social sanctions. Given that more and more people in the U.S. are choosing to not have children, this work has far-reaching implications.

Ashburn-Nardo believes these findings offer the first known empirical evidence that parenthood is seen as a moral imperative.

Except that it’s not a “moral imperative”.  It’s an ability that all people are capable of but choose not to partake in. It is no more “immoral” to not have children than to not eat meat or not believe in mythological beings. And it does not harm or impede those who want to partake in those things.

Being Childfree is an atheist issue.


  1. sonofrojblake says

    it does not harm or impede those who want to partake in those things

    That’s arguable. Consider: if the world consists of you (and your partner) and me (and my partner), and I choose to have children and you do not, does that harm me? Well, no, not today. Your choice doesn’t stop me having children, obviously, any more than your choice to marry someone of the same gender undermines my marriage to my partner of the opposite gender. But… we’re going to get old, you and I (I hope). We’re going to need care. Who provides that care? Who pays for it, out of their taxes? Not YOUR kids. And if the world is just us, I get less care, less attention, less time, because you need some too.

    To be clear: I’m childfree by choice so far, and I agree with you. But you have to acknowledge the Tragedy of the Commons argument to be made in favour breeding.

    • says

      Seems to me you could just as easily make that argument the other way around. The more you breed, the greater a share of resources your children will claim, leaving less for others.

    • says

      Yeah…all this really tells me is that our societies are set up wrong. I should be paying for my own care via the taxes I paid into the system when I was younger so that it won’t matter if I have children or not. (Granted, somebody has to have children so that there is someone younger to provide the care.) Sorry, the fact that we live in a flawed society should not have that much influence on the decisions I make. Fixing the flaws, even if that would be a great undertaking, should always be an option.

  2. Siobhan says

    @Marcus Ranum

    They envy us for our freedoms, our extra cash, and our well-rested appearance.

    Somebody once asked me what I would have without kids, and I replied “time and money.”

    To Intransitive regarding the previous post–you’re absolutely right that obligatory sterilization is completely immoral. I more meant that my choice to be childfree was just coincidentally reinforced by how eager my medical system is to facilitate my sterilization. Were I cis, that same system would fight me tooth and nail to make the same decision.

  3. EveryZig says

    A tragedy of the commons argument can be made in your weird hypothetical world, but all sorts of arguments can be made in hypothetical worlds, like the one where the sun stops rising because nobody elected to sacrifice their firstborn child. While your scenario is physically possible, it isn’t very plausible for Earth’s huge population to somehow vanish without also making the planet uninhabitable for future generations.

    On a related note, I recently saw a conservative opinion piece where the writer fretted about declining population (using it as a justification for saying we should outlaw porn and such) while conspicuously ignoring the fact that there’s people literally begging to be let in every day. But because nationalism, people on the wrong side of a line on the map aren’t real people, apparently.

  4. Mano Singham says

    It baffles me why some people care so much about the decisions that other people make about their own lives. It would be terrible to guilt-trip people into having children when they would prefer not to.