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Why are younger generations not having children?

ByAntonina Dolecka

Oct 6, 2021
pregnant woman sits on wooden bench

In recent years, the notion of Gen Z and younger Millennials not wanting children has gained some publicity. This discussion seems to be everywhere from the public eye to private conversations. Personally, every time I even briefly hear any conversation on this topic, one article title just immediately appears in my mind: “Children can be nice, but they are not very eco-friendly.” Obviously, there was more to the story behind this title, but it managed to become mostly a meme, adding even more heat to the discussion. However, what exactly motivates people, especially in their early twenties, to have or not to have kids, is a more complicated issue than this battle around the Internet. 

There are various reasons to have children and they are always treated as a deeply personal issue. For some, it is a sense of completeness that cannot be completely satisfied without having children. For others, it is a life-long dream. Some are just filled with so much love and affection that only having a kid can satisfy all those emotions. For older generations, children were seen as a hope for the world, so having them seemed almost like contributing to a higher purpose of a better future.

Since reasons for having children are mostly treated as personal and should not be anyone’s business, it seems a bit hypocritical that the same explanation does not work for the opposite situation. But since the personal choice is sometimes not enough, the young generation actually has some extensive arguments that make the case rather persuasive. To start off this list, not being emotionally ready is always brought up in the conversation quite early on. It takes a lot of self-awareness to admit that you are not in the right state of mind yet to handle the responsibilities of parenthood. With increasing awareness on mental health and the harmful effects of early childhood traumas caused by growing up in difficult conditions, the younger generation does not want to put their future kids through the difficulties of growing up with a parent with some unresolved issues.

Financial stability also plays an important role. With an unstable employment situation and being unable to afford a place to live without renting, bringing a child into this world might be a debatable issue. Other points include climate change, growing inequalities, the unstable socio-political situation of many regions and already existing overpopulation. What strikes the younger generation is the fact that being forced to grow up in a borderline-dystopia with a lack of hope would be simply unfair to children. The idea of children being the future might not hold so neatly if there is not much optimism about said future. 

Hearing that people do not want children has become unavoidable. When looking at the issue from the perspective of the age group that is usually blamed for making the “problem” ever so significant, learning that someone actually wants children becomes more shocking to me than not wanting children. However, interestingly enough, when asking university students about the issue, everyone seems to have a slightly different attitude, rather than a simple yes or no answer. 

At first, there seems to be a tendency towards being rather reluctant concerning the idea of having children. However, in general, even the ones strongly against the idea of being a parent claim they would allow themselves to change their mind in ten years or so. This raises another idea, often dismissed, that the early twenties are not as good of a time to think about having kids as they would have appeared previously. So, even if someone rejects the idea of raising a child now, it does not necessarily mean that revisiting this idea in a decade might lead to the same conclusion. Still, some of our fellow university students seem very keen on becoming a parent, and the thought of it is always in the back of their minds even now. One of my friends definitely wants to have children one day, but the only way she wants to do it is through adoption. It is interesting to mention, not only because it emphasises the existence of different ways of entering parenthood, but also because it touches on the notion so often quoted as the reason against having kids: inequality of resources and the already-existing lack of stability for so many children. 

For so long, having children was considered a social responsibility. If young people realise that, they might not be ready to take up this responsibility just yet. At the end of the day, children are a little bit like podcasts; everyone could have them, but probably not everyone should.

Image via Public Domain Pictures