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Childfree movement

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The childfree movement is an social movement advocating voluntary childlessness or childfreedom. People who are childless by choice are given the adjective childfree. The movement was started in the 1970s, with the establishment of activist groups National Organization for Non-Parents and No Kidding!

The word 'childfree' first appeared sometime before 1901.[1] However, portrayals of parenthood with a health dose of reality in the mass media is a very recent phenomenon.[2]

Reasons to be childfree[edit]

Members of the childfree movement do not have a shared ideology besides the desire to not have children. They have many reasons to be childfree, which can be broadly divided into the following categories.

Economic arguments[edit]

  • Pregnancy and childbirth disrupt a person's career. Many feminists support birth control partially for this reason.
  • Working parents' second shift begins when they get home to young children.
  • The "joy" of children notwithstanding, the cost of raising children in a developed economy such as Australia or the United States is higher than some may realize.[3][4]
  • Children cost money to have.

Environmental arguments[edit]

  • People have a responsibility toward the environment. Thus to prevent overpopulation and other anthropogenic environmental problems — such as global climate change, rising sea levels, and oceanic acidification to name but a few — they should choose not to have children. Having one fewer child reduces one's carbon dioxide emissions significantly, a lot more than, say, owning a car with improved fuel economy, replacing incandescent light bulbs with more energy efficient models, avoiding air travel, practicing comprehensive recycling, or adopting a meat-free diet.[5][6]

Health arguments[edit]

  • Pregnancy and childbirth are physically dangerous, and have lasting effects on a women's health. In particular, research suggests a causal link between gravidity and accelerated cellular aging, because energy is diverted from somatic maintenance to reproductive efforts.[7]
  • Pregnancy and childbirth bring about substantial neurobiological changes that can be unsettling and confusing, leading to postpartum depression, and feelings of insecurity and inadequacy, among other things.[8] Men can also suffer from postpartum depression.[9] [note 1]
  • Sleep deprivation opens a floodgate to all sorts of health issues.[10][note 2]
  • If a parent has a genetic disorder, the child may inherit it.

Philosophical arguments[edit]

German philosopher Arthur SchopenhauerWikipedia contributed to antinatalist philosophy.
  • People have the right to choose whether or not to have children. That choice does not lie with the government or society.
  • If a parent is financially unstable or have low-income, or if they are mentally ill this may cause misery for the child. Since the child has nothing to do with the financial breakdown of the couple, it is unethical to give birth to a child only to cause it misery.
  • A slightly more broad version of the above argument goes that to live is, by definition, to suffer, and so to have children is merely to perpetuate suffering.
  • Raising children can potentially force a person to vicariously relive unpleasant parts of their own childhood.
  • Misery loves company.[note 3]
  • People have a responsibility to help those already here. Having biological children deprives people from helping them fully due to the extra burden of child-rearing and further draining resources to aid them.
  • Childbirth is an act of selfishness that only serves to boost people's ego and/or is done solely as a means to benefit those who birth them.
  • It is immoral to birth children into broken and/or unfree societies that will coerce them to obey and shall be exploited unfairly as long as such societies are thus maintained.
  • Anyone who believes in an eternal Hell should surely realize how inexcusably reckless and immoral it is to bring into existence a being who has even the slightest chance of ending up there.
  • There is much more to life than reproduction. There is simply no need to reproduce in order to enjoy life.[note 4]

Social arguments[edit]

  • A child may violate a couple's right to privacy.
  • When children grow up, they may become a disappointment to their parents.[note 5]
  • Parenthood is the graveyard of friendships.[11]
  • Parents can become less empathetic towards non-family members.[12][note 6] This helps explain why non-parents are more likely to be involved in their communities.

Reproductive laws and trends in some countries[edit]

General facts and statistics[edit]

Thanks to rising standards of living, greater access to contraceptives, and improved educational and economical opportunities. Falling fertility rates can thus be considered a sign of success; the more advanced of economies such as most of Europe tends to have lower fertility rates. The global average fertility rate in 1950 was 4.7 but dropped to 2.4 in 2017. However, this average masks the huge variation between countries. Niger has the world's highest fertility rate at 7.1 while Taiwan has one of the lowest at 1.0.[13]


A Beijing Subway transfer corridor during rush hour.

China's one-child policy is one of the most prominent examples of legal limits on reproduction. Examples of total anti-natalist policies include forced sterilization mothers who have already had children in order to meet family planning targets.[14] The one-child policy, recently rescinded, prevented the already high population of China becoming much worse, putting a severe burden on social programs and infrastructure.

According to government data, Japan's total fertility rate stood at 1.43 in 2017. In order to boost the nation's birthrate, in 2019, the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe introduced a number of education reforms. Starting October 2019, preschool education will be free for all children between the ages of three and five. Childcare will be free for children under the age of two from low-income households. These programs will be funded by a consumption tax hike, from eight to ten percent. Starting April 2020, entrance and tuition fees for public as well as private universities will be waived for reduced. Students from low-income and tax-exempt families will be legible for financial assistance to help them cover textbook, transportation, and living expenses.[15]

South Korea's fertility rate dropped below 1.0 in 2018 for the first time since that country began keeping statistics in 1970. The figure for 2017 was also a record low, at 1.05. Since 2005, the government has spent a fortune on child subsidies and campaigns promoting reproduction but without much success. Possible reasons for Korea's abysmal fertility rate include the expensiveness of raising a child, high youth unemployment, the burden of childcare on career-minded women, a stressful education system, and high levels of competition in Korean society. In South Korea, marriage is usually associated with child-rearing. As a result, children born out of wedlock are exceedingly rare, at 1.9 percent as of 2017. By contrast, in other developed countries, such as France, it is rather common for children to be born to unmarried couples.[16]

According to the Republic of China's National Development Council, the nation's population could start shrinking by 2022. Like South Korea, Taiwan is moving from being an aging society—one in which the number of seniors is about seven percent—to an aged one, where the number of elderly people exceed 14 percent. During the second decade of the twentieth century, Taiwan's fertility rate hovered just above 1.0.[17] Reasons for this include the high costs of childcare and properties, the fact that most women prioritize their education and careers, superstitions, and old-fashioned views about women. In 2010, Taiwan's fertility rate fell below 1.0 because it was thought to be a bad year to have children. (The previous year, 2009, was considered inauspicious for marriage.) Many couples still live with their parents, and the older generation expects women to stay at home, take care of children, and do house chores. Stipends and subsidies from the government have proved unsuccessful in encouraging more people to reproduce.[18] The government is also considering immigration policies that attract skilled workers from other countries.[17]


Laws that explicitly or effectively require individuals to procreate (e.g., laws permitting marital rape) are generally frowned upon as violating civil rights. Certainly many adults would be found in violation of such laws, whether they be perpetual virgins, confirmed bachelors, homosexuals, developmentally-disabled (where an individual wouldn't be physically or mentally capable of taking care of a child) or infertile. Still, certain places have imposed taxes on childlessness, such as the former Soviet Union[19] and awards for big families, such as modern Russia.[20]

Many countries have taken very pro-natalist polices going further than soft penalization. This is done usually by enacting very strict abortion laws to compel women to give birth even if they've no desire to have children. Ireland is a prime example of such a country. Their anti-abortion stance comes mainly from immense pressure emanating from the Roman Catholic Church who still exercise a very strong influence on Ireland's government. As such, the government maintains very strict abortion laws with anyone caught getting being heavily penalized unless it is absolutely required to save women's lives. Such restrictions have resulted in ire from the childfree and those in the pro-choice movement. They argue such laws making childbirth compulsory is not only legalized coercion to drive people into having children but it encourages pregnant woman to "back alley" abortions. The latter often results in very unsafe venues that result in injury or even death. However, as of 2018, Irish voters overwhelmingly favored repealing the ban on abortions.[21]

North America[edit]

Provisional data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reveal that U.S. fertility rates have been below the replacement level of 2.1 since 1971. In 2017, U.S. fertility rates dropped to 1.765, the lowest in three decades.[22] However, there is great variation in terms of geography, age groups, and ethnicity. South Dakota had the highest birth rate at 2,228 per a thousand women and the District of Columbia the lowest at 1,421.[22] From 2006 to 2016, women whose ages range from the mid-20s to the mid-30s maintain the highest birth rates of all. During the same period, women in their late 30s and early 40s have seen significant increases in birth rates.[23] Meanwhile, the number of births given by teenagers, which reached ominous levels in the 1990s, have plummeted by about 60%. This is thanks in no small part to the collapse of birth rates among Black and Hispanic teens, down 50% from 2006.[24] Despite rapidly converging to those of their peers, Hispanic birth rates remain the highest of any ethnic groups in the United States.[25]

Although the CDC neglected the topic of abortion, research by the Guttmacher Institute revealed that higher rates of terminated pregnancies is likely not linked to falling teenage birthrates, as teenage pregnancies have been falling. Peer pressure has switched direction; it is now not uncommon for teens to delay or avoid sexual intercourse. The trend of abstinence is especially pronounced among younger teenagers. Sex education has been reformed. New lessons focus more on character development and financial responsibility.[24]

That U.S. fertility rates continue to drop is anomalous to demographers because fertility rates typically track the nation's economic health. It was no surprise that U.S. fertility rates dropped during the Great Recession of 2007-8. But the U.S. economy has shown strong signs of recovery for some time, and birthrates continue to fall. In general, however, American women still tend to have children earlier than their counterparts from other developed countries and the U.S. total fertility rate remains comparatively high for a rich country. It remains unclear whether young Americans today are postponing reproduction or forgoing it altogether.[26]

Below-replacement-level fertility rates could lead to labor shortages in the future. In order to address this problem, experts recommend childcare subsidies, (paid) parental leave, housing assistance, and student debt reduction or forgiveness.[26]


There are several childfree organizations throughout the world. No Kidding! is a prominent international organization, active in New Zealand, Canada, and the United States. Its membership grew after it launched a website in the 1990s.[27]

A new movement, Childfree India, is getting some media attention. One of its organizers, Raphael Samuel, an antinatalist, announces that he will sue his parents for giving birth to him without consent. Admittedly a media stunt, Samuel re-energized followers of antinatalism that has been inactive for years. Some of the members of Childfree India identify as antinatalists, Efilists, and members of the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (VHEMT). Additionally, the group won recognition from their international peers, the International Childfree Day, last August by taking home the group of the year award.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Benatar, David. Better Never to Have Been : The Harm of Coming into Existence. Oxford University Press, 2008. ISBN 978-0-199-54926-9.


  1. Society tends to be pro-natal and naturally fails to properly educate people on the potentially undesirable aspects of parenthood. It's all about the joys, not the emotional upheavals.
  2. Your mother is right. Go to bed early!
  3. "See what the years have done. He looks boyish, unlined and rested. She is slim, well-groomed and youthful. It isn’t natural. If they had kids, they’d look like the rest of us — tired, gray, wrinkled and haggard. In other words, normal."
  4. Illustrative graphics.
  5. Please use your knowledge of history and your imagination.
  6. And they told me childfree people are selfish. Ha!


  1. Child-free. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary.
  2. How Cinema Embraced the Silent Agony of Being A Parent. The Guardian. July 26, 2018.
  3. [1]. AMP Limited. April 4, 2018.
  4. [2]. CNN Money. January 9, 2017.
  5. Should We Be Having Kids In The Age Of Climate Change?. NPR. August 18, 2016.
  6. Having children is one of the most destructive things you can to do the environment, say researchers. The Independent. July 12, 2017.
  7. Reproduction predicts shorter telomeres and epigenetic age acceleration among young adult women. Nature. July 23, 2018.
  8. Motherhood brings the most dramatic brain changes of a woman’s life. Boston Globe. July 17th, 2018.
  9. Postnatal Depression: Fathers Can Suffer Similar Issues to Women, Say Experts. The Guardian. August 9, 2018.
  10. Sleep Scientist Warns Against Walking Through Life In An Underslept State. NPR. July 20, 2018.
  11. The Hidden Cost of Motherhood. The Sydney Morning Herald. April 16th, 2018.
  12. Having Kids Can Make Parents Less Empathetic. The Atlantic. November 18, 2015.
  13. 'Remarkable' decline in fertility rates. BBC News. November 9, 2018.
  14. https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2010/04/thousands-risk-forced-sterilization-china/
  15. Japan enacts legislation making preschool education free in effort to boost low fertility rate. The Japan Times. May 10, 2019. Accessed May 21, 2019.
  16. South Korea's fertility rate drops below one for first time. France 24. February 27, 2019. Accessed May 6, 2019.
  17. 17.0 17.1 Taiwan’s population could start shrinking in four years. Quartz. August 31, 2019. Accessed May 6, 2019.
  18. Taiwanese birth rate plummets despite measures. BBC News. August 15, 2011. Accessed May 6, 2019.
  19. http://www.historychannel.com.au/this-day-in-history/tax-on-childlessness-in-ussr/
  20. https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2017/mar/25/unreported-world-putins-family-values-review-channel-4-domestic-violence
  21. Ireland Votes Resoundingly To Repeal Abortion Ban. CNN. May 26, 2018.
  22. 22.0 22.1 US fertility rate is below level needed to replace population, study says. CNN. January 10, 2019. Accessed May 14, 2019.
  23. The U.S. fertility rate just hit a historic low. Why some demographers are freaking out. The Washington Post. June 30, 2017. Accessed May 14, 2019.
  24. 24.0 24.1 Teen birthrate hits all-time low, led by 50 percent decline among Hispanics and blacks. The Washington Post. April 28, 2016. Accessed May 14, 2019.
  25. Why Birthrates Among Hispanic Americans Have Plummeted. The New York Times. March 7, 2019. Accessed May 14, 2019.
  26. 26.0 26.1 US births lowest in 3 decades despite improving economy. Associated Press. May 15, 2019. Accessed May 21, 2019.
  27. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=qysbAAAAIBAJ&sjid=MEgEAAAAIBAJ&pg=6825,1804699&dq=childfree+movement&hl=en