When deciding whether to have children, there are many factors to consider: finances, support systems, personal values. For a growing number of people, climate change is also added to the list of considerations, says a University of Arizona researcher.
Sabrina Helm, an associate professor at the Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, is lead author of a new peer study that looks at how climate change affects people’s decisions about whether to have children.
“For many people, the question of whether or not to have children is one of the biggest ones they will face in their lives,” Helm said. “If you’re worried about what the future will look like because of climate change, it’s obviously going to affect how you look at this very important decision in your life.”
Helm and her collaborators wanted to better understand the specific reasons for climate change related to people, for not wanting to have children. They began by analyzing online comments posted in response to news articles about the growing trend of people abandoning children due to climate change.
They then looked for adults aged 18 to 35 who said climate change plays an important role in their reproductive decision-making. They interviewed 24 participants about their concerns.
The results of the researchers, published in the journal Population and Environment, identify three important topics that have appeared both in the online comments and in the interviews.
1) Overconsumption. This was the most common concern expressed by interviewees, Helm said. Nearly all participants said they are concerned about how children will contribute to climate change through increased carbon footprint and excessive use of resources that could become scarcer in the future, such as food and water.
2) Overcrowding. Overcrowding has been the main concern among online commentators, and it has often appeared in interviews as well, Helm said. Some participants said they feel that having more than two children will be problematic and even selfish because they will “over-replace” themselves and their partner. Some said they see adoption as a more responsible choice. “Adoption was viewed as the low-carbon alternative,” Helm said.
3) Uncertain future. Interviewees and online commentators have also often expressed a sense of doom for the future if climate change continues unabated. Many said they would feel guilty or as if they were doing something morally or ethically wrong if they brought a child into a world with such an uncertain future.
While the “doom” outlook was general, it was also balanced with expressions of hope, Helm said. Some interviewees and commentators said the very idea of children gives hope for a better and brighter future. Others expressed hope that future generations can contribute to environmental improvement by increasing climate change and performance.
“It was hoped that future generations would get the job done and make things better,” Helm said. “But that burdens the little kids a lot.”
Understanding how climate change affects reproductive decision-making is part of a greater effort by Helm and other researchers to understand how climate change affects people as a whole and emotionally. Helm noted that anxiety about climate change is growing, especially among younger people.
“A lot of people are now severely affected in terms of mental health in relation to concerns about climate change,” she said. “Then you add this very important decision about having children that very few take lightly, and this is an important issue in terms of public health. It all ties in to this bigger issue of how climate change affects people beyond the immediate impact of weather phenomena. .. “
Helm said many study participants expressed anger and frustration that their worries are not taken seriously by family and friends who could arrogantly tell them they will change their mind about having children when they are older or meet the right person.
“It’s still a bit taboo to even talk about this – about how anxious they are – in an environment where there are still people who deny climate change,” Helm said. “I think I miss the opportunity to talk about it and hear voices from other people. Maybe this research will help.”
How climate change affects children’s health and well-being
Sabrina Helm et al, No future, no children – no children, no future ?, Population and Environment (2021). DOI: 10.1007 / s11111-021-00379-5
Granted by the University of Arizona
Quote: Why climate change is forcing some to skip children (2021, April 21) taken April 22, 2021 from https://phys.org/news/2021-04-climate-kids.html
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