1 in 5 Adults Don't Want Children, Study Says

Are more adults choosing to be child-free?

By: Amanda Mushro

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Annemiek Franken holds the tiny foot of infant son Tunui Franken while he nurses.


Annemiek Franken holds the tiny foot of infant son Tunui Franken while he nurses.

Photo by: Owen Franken

Owen Franken

For many adults, getting married and having children is all part of their life plan. While the average age of first-time parents continues to rise (according to the U.S. Census Bureau the average age of women giving birth is now 30), there’s also another number that is climbing — the number of adults without children. A new study out of Michigan State says that being called mom or dad isn’t in the cards for a growing group of people, and they are child-free by choice.

According to the study, more than 1 in 5 Michigan adults aren't interested in becoming parents, and researchers on this study say this number actually surprised them. In fact, they repeated the study again with a new batch of 1,000 Michigan adults. During the second round of the replicated study, they found the number of adults who planned to stay childless was similar during the initial study and the second study.

While this study was done in Michigan, researchers feel that it’s relevant no matter what state you live in. "Michigan is demographically similar to the United States as a whole, so this could mean 50 million to 60 million Americans are child-free," said study co-author Jennifer Watling Neal in a university news release.

"We found that 20.9% of adults in Michigan do not want children, which closely matches our earlier estimate of 21.6%, and means that over 1.6 million people in Michigan are child-free," said Neal, a professor of psychology at Michigan State University.

Often when these types of studies are performed, some critics express their concern that adults choosing to not have children will someday regret their decision. However, Neal added "we found no evidence that older child-free adults experience any more life regret than older parents. In fact, older parents were slightly more likely to want to change something about their life."

The study also noted that the adults choosing a life without kids stayed the same no matter who they surveyed. "Many adults are child-free, and there do not seem to be differences by age, education or income," said Zachary Neal, associate professor of psychology at MSU and co-author of the study. "However, being child-free is somewhat more common among adults who identify as male, white or who have always been single."

Researchers say that considering the growing number of adults in this country that are choosing to stay child-free, healthcare professionals, policymakers and politicians will need to pay attention to this growing group for a number of reasons

"Child-free individuals, who are also described as 'childless by choice' or 'voluntarily childless,' have decided they do not want biological or adopted children. This is an important population to understand because its members have unique reproductive health and end-of-life needs, and they encounter challenges managing work-life balance and with stereotypes," the study reads.

So, what’s next for this group of researchers? They would like to take this study and apply it to other states to compare results and to conduct more large-scale research.


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