What is childfree: a bit of history

Children are the flowers of life, but let them grow better in someone else’s flower garden.” Familiar? Such thoughts visit every parent from time to time, because children are constant chores, expenses and problems. Troubles, of course, can be pleasant, problems can be completely solved, but one way or another, you get tired of all this.

And after resting, you walk into a new day, leading by the hand your capricious and sleepy, but such a cute toddler to kindergarten, rejoicing at the first school successes of your first grader, preparing for graduation with your already grown child, seeing off your son to the army and marrying your daughter. “How else?” someone will ask. Yes, very easy!

Your thinking will become much more liberated if you go through our Self-Knowledge programs . And if you bother to study the “ Psychology of Relationships ” program as well, you will basically lose the desire to fit everything you see into some kind of templates, because you will understand the futility and destructiveness of this undertaking.

Our topic today is childfree in all its forms and manifestations. And for starters – a little historical digression.

What is childfree: a bit of history

The term “childfree” appeared relatively recently by historical standards, but it still could not be established its exact origin. Presumably, this term first came into use in the 70s of the 20th century as part of the activities of the National Organization for Non-Parents of the United States, which no longer exists [ E. Selivirova, 2010 ].

This concept became more widely known in the 90s, namely after the school teacher Leslie Lafayette created an online community called The Childfree Network, the purpose of which was to combat various types of discrimination against childless people and families [ E. Aleksakhina, 2011 ].

Let’s clarify that 30 years ago, the topic was not so much banned, but, let’s say, caused misunderstanding in society, which led to various excesses. We also clarify that the Russian word “childfree” is a direct translation of the English childfree, literally meaning “without children” or “free from children.”

This term refers to people who have consciously chosen the path of abandoning parenthood, despite the fact that their physical and financial condition allows them to have children. The term was introduced in opposition to the concept of “childless”, which means “childless” and is usually used in the context of “not able to have children.”

Today, the term “childfree” is widespread, ubiquitous and commonly used. In any case, most people know what the term means. In simple words, childfree is when they can, but do not want to. However, “inside” the concept of childfree, there are many different gradations and shades of meaning, for which separate terms have been invented. This is worth discussing in more detail.

Kinds and types of childfree

For parents with experience, “hung with” worries about the younger generation and living in a continuous stream of thoughts, what to feed, what to wear, where to send to study and what pennies to live on after the children have been dressed, shod, fed and donated money to school for the next “curtains”, childfree types may not be too interesting.

However, if there are other worries in your life, except for children and how to live up to a salary, it is advisable to understand the types of childfree already in order not to get into awkward situations, trying to comment on someone’s lifestyle and image thoughts.

In the article “Childfree: no panic. Sociological view” analyzes the main trends of this phenomenon on real life examples [ E. Selivirova, 2010 ]. We will not go too deep, and confine ourselves to a general description of the main types.

The main types of childfree:

  • Rejectors, they are childhaters – people who do not like children and treat children and the very idea of ​​​​pregnancy, breastfeeding, changing diapers and other inevitability associated with the appearance of a child in the family with a certain degree of disgust.
  • Postponers are people who put off the idea of ​​having children “for later”, when they graduate from high school, find a job, solve material and housing problems, buy a car, see the world, live for themselves, and so on ad infinitum.
  • Affecionado – they prefer freedom and are aware that children pretty much limit freedom. Therefore, they make a conscious choice in favor of freedom, including freedom from children.
  • Refuseniks hesitate for a long time, weighing the pros and cons of having children in the family and most often refuse plans to have children either by “skipping” the childbearing age, when health allows them to have children, or by finding another 100,500 reasons why they don’t need it.

These are the main types of childfree, but that’s not all. In the modern world, there are various subcultures whose representatives do not announce their intention to have children, but they still do not have children. These are, so to speak, “secondary” childfree, when the absence of children is not a goal or a means, but a direct consequence of their lifestyle and / or professed values .

Subcultures and youth movements with a high percentage of childfree:

  • Kidalt – literally “adult child”. The term comes from the English kidult, where kid means “child” and adult means “adult”. Such “adult children” actively explore the world, have many hobbies and are not yet ready to buy toys for someone else but themselves.
  • Singleton is a person who prefers to live alone because it is more convenient for him. Alone means alone, without a wife, husband and, accordingly, children.
  • Twixer is a person “hung” between two states: the status of a teenager and the status of an adult. As a rule, he lives with his parents, doing odd jobs, so there is nothing to support the family, and there is nowhere to bring a potential partner. The term is common in the USA.
  • Furita is about the same as a tweaker, but in Japan. It is more often used in relation to young people who have decided not to go to university and not to receive higher education, and therefore earn little and cannot afford a family and children.
  • Hikikomori, they are hikki – translated from Japanese, this means “staying in solitude” and implies a high degree of voluntary social isolation (not to be confused with quarantine and forced self-isolation). A secluded lifestyle is not conducive to new romantic relationships, starting a family and having children.
  • The satori generation in Japanese is a generation free from material desires, which is content with little and does not strive to earn money. Of course, such a way of life is not very suitable for a family and conflicts with the legal requirement of a legal partner to take care of the material well-being of the family and the maintenance of children.
  • The NEET generation is young people who do not work and do not study, therefore, with a high degree of probability, they are unlikely to mature into serious adult relationships and readiness to be responsible for the family. The term appeared in the UK, gained some popularity in Latin America and … right – in Japan!

As you can see, a lot of youth trends leading to childfree are localized in Japan. This does not mean that the Japanese are less fond of children or less eager to work than other peoples. The reason, rather, is that the Japanese are more pedantic and prone to detail, so it was there that a lot of terms were born that describe different shades of childfree. In other countries, they are usually content with either a general definition of childfree, or they use one of the terms already invented by someone.

In fact, you can find many other terms, names and designations for different variants of childfree gradations. We will not list them all, because they are all just variations of the above trends. But where did the general trend of childfree and subculture come from, the supporters of which, most likely, will never know the joy of motherhood and fatherhood? Let’s figure it out.

The origins and causes of the childfree movement

In this article, we have already mentioned the US National Organization for Non-Parents, which no longer exists [ E. Selivirova, 2010 ]. Can we say today that childfree is a social movement? Many psychologists and sociologists believe that today there is every reason to talk about the childfree movement [ D. Klein, 2019 ].

Firstly, because of the growing popularity of this idea. Secondly, because of the growing public interest in this phenomenon. And, finally, because today, in percentage terms, there are actually more people who do not want to have children and take measures to ensure that children do not appear.

Scientists name different statistics, which is due to different methods of calculation. Thus, according to the Levada Center in Russia, about 2% of people do not want to have children, and about 9% expect that they will not have children for various reasons [ Levada Center, 2019 ]. As for specific data on childfree in Russia, a dozen years ago they counted a little more than three and a half thousand [ E. Aleksakhina, 2011 ].

In the US, according to the situation in 2014, about 15% of women aged 40-44 never had a single child [ Pew Research Center, 2015 ]. This is the total number without dividing into childfree (when they can, but do not want) and childless (when they want, but cannot).

In Europe, by 2010, there was an increase in the number of people without children, relative to data for the 90s of the 20th century. So, if in the 90s there were less than 10% of them, in 2010, in almost all of Western Europe, the figure confidently exceeded the mark of 12%. Most childfree + childless are in Spain (21.6%), Austria (21.54%), England (20%), Finland (19.89%) and Ireland (19%) [ OECD, 2010 ].

More recent studies point to an increase in the number of childfree in society, although researchers still face some difficulties in separating and dividing childfree and childless in the course of research programs [ J. Neal, 2021 ].

These difficulties are mainly connected with the fact that society still hardly understands people who voluntarily refused to procreate. And in view of the fact that the phenomenon of group reinforcement , one way or another, forces one to adapt to public opinion, many childfree people do not want to identify themselves in this way. It is not uncommon for childfree people to pretend to be infertile and claim that no treatment and no reproductive technologies help them.

Nevertheless, many are quite ready to identify themselves as childfree, and can even clearly articulate why they chose such a life path. By the way, if you refrain from confusing methods, but simply on condition of anonymity “on the forehead” ask if a person wants children, a very definite picture emerges. So, in the course of one of the recent surveys, it turned out that about 27% of modern young people do not want to have children [ A. Salkova, 2021 ]. At least at the time of the survey.

A lot of interesting things in the course of scientific research were revealed by our Russian sociologist Ilya Lomakin from the Laboratory for Comparative Social Research of the National Research University Higher School of Economics [ O. Sobolevskaya, 2020 ].

The main reasons for childfree:

  • Unwillingness to take responsibility for children and have unnecessary problems in life.
  • The desire for freedom in the management of time, money, and a conscious choice in favor of freedom, including freedom from children.
  • The idea of ​​children as an obstacle to self-sufficiency, self-realization, career, etc.
  • Negative attitude, disgust or disgust towards young children. Usually it has a physical biological basis – someone does not like mice, bugs and spiders, and someone does not like children.
  • Fear of irreversible consequences, because if parenthood does not bring satisfaction or brings disappointment, it will no longer be possible to “play back” this situation.

These are the main reasons why people become childfree. Much less often, researchers point to reasons such as financial problems or the absence of an official spouse, permanent partner, or someone with whom one could share the joy of motherhood or fatherhood.

Perhaps there is something in this, because women who are truly “sharpened” for motherhood, even in the absence of a husband, often give birth “for themselves.” And given our mentality, young people often “do not bother” with possible material difficulties .

As the saying goes, “God gave a bunny – he will give a lawn,” so many young people are ready to shift material chores onto the shoulders of the state, parents, municipal authorities, and various charitable organizations. Not all, of course, but many.

A very small percentage explains their reluctance to have children with global causes: global warming, global climate change, the need to combat overpopulation of the planet, etc. Is it true that they think so or is it a great life hack to protect themselves from accusations of selfishness, it’s hard to say for sure.

By the way, there are still many who want to accuse, convince and re-educate representatives of childfree. It is enough to look at any childfree forum on the Internet to see how many commentators there are who have nothing to do with childfree, but who want to prove to these people that they are badly wrong. Why? Let’s discuss this too.

Reasons for not accepting childfree

Despite the fact that the number of childfree is steadily growing, and the number of adherents of this ideology is growing, they are still noticeably less than half of the population. So, in quantitative terms, they lose, and in the ability to defend their position, too.

By the way, some scholars suggest identifying childfree people based on this identity that people accept and articulate. Some scientists believe that childfree implies “socio-political mobilization”, public upholding of one’s rights and beliefs [ O. Sobolevskaya, 2020 ].

Be that as it may, it is always more difficult to defend one’s views in a minority than by joining the majority. We have already mentioned above that some childfree, not wanting to incur the wrath of public opinion, prefer to identify themselves as childless, unable to have children for medical reasons.

One way or another, today the scale of rejection of childfree is such that special studies are even devoted to this. For example, “Who are childfree and how do they live in Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Central Asia” [ T. Yarmoshchuk, N. Mousavi, A. Safarzoda, 2021 ].

And even in the scientific world, which, it would seem, should be a model of impartiality, the term “childfree” is used in a deliberately negative context. What are headlines like “Communicative strategies in texts representing the ideology of childfree: on the verge of extremism” [ Yu. Antonova, 2013 ].

This is despite the fact that, as we remember, in Russia with a population of 140 million, according to the situation in 2011, as many as 3,500 childfree were counted [ E. Aleksakhina, 2011 ]! This is how you need to be afraid of new trends and any changes, so that everything that is not too clear and familiar is declared extremism ?!

The situation is still changing slowly, as evidenced by an interview with the head of the All-Russian Public Opinion Research Center, Valery Fedorov, under the self-explanatory title “Russians have a negative attitude towards childfree” [ D. Filippova, 2017 ].

The democratic West is traditionally more tolerant of everything new, and the scientific world is ready to study new trends without a touch of bias. Interest in the topic of childfree has been observed almost since the appearance of this phenomenon.

So, already in the late 70s of the 20th century, Canadian researcher Jane Veevers studied families that deliberately refused to have children in terms of their motives, and summarized her observations in the monograph Childless By Choice (“Childless by choice”) [ J. Veevers, 1980 ].

A separate study is devoted to the changes in society that led to the growth of childfree ideas, and to the study of society’s attitude to a new phenomenon at that time. The results are summarized in the book Continuity and Change in Marriage and Family (“Continuity and Change in Marriage and Family”) [ J. Veevers, 1990 ].

We have already talked about the causes of childfree as a phenomenon. Therefore, let us dwell on the reasons for the still prevailing rejection of this phenomenon.

Why society is wary of childfree:

  • Conservatism – most people have a hard time accepting any changes and changes in society, in principle.
  • Traditions – the long-term promotion of family values ​​has brought certain results, and for many children are an independent value, regardless of how adults are able to provide for children, make them happy, and give them due attention.
  • Conformity – this desire is present at the level of instinct, and people join the majority even when it does not promise any benefits, and being in the minority does not threaten any danger. For example, in the laboratory conditions in which Asch ‘s famous conformity experiments took place.
  • Natural aggressiveness – most people aggressively perceive everything that goes beyond their perception, phenomena known and familiar to them, including people who are able to think and act outside the box.
  • The “glass of water” theory – the belief prevails in society that caring for the elderly is the responsibility of their children, therefore children are a necessary element of a normal family and successful old age.
  • The latent fear of a lack of resources – the state takes care of the lonely old people, so the rest of the citizens have a deliberately negative attitude towards “freeloaders” and the fear that an extra burden on the social security system will hit the pockets of representatives of traditional family values, who pay taxes all their lives and while solving all their problems on their own.
  • Envy – it has already been proven that most childfree people live no less, and often happier than families with children. It turns out that happiness can come with less hassle and energy costs, but not everyone understood this in time.

Yes, today there are many confirmed cases when people who deliberately abandoned parenthood many years ago are completely satisfied with their lives and do not regret their choice in any way. Thus, psychologists at Michigan State University surveyed about a thousand adults in order to identify a correlation between the presence or absence of children and the degree of life satisfaction [ C. Brooks, 2021 ].

For this, the so-called “Life Satisfaction Scale” was used. It turned out that there was no significant difference in performance between childfree and supporters of traditional family values. Moreover, it turned out that childfree people are generally more liberal and tolerant towards others.

One way or another, new trends are making their way, and childfree is becoming more and more, including at the highest political level. In a democratic society, politicum represents society, its moods and trends, including in terms of childfree ideology. It’s neither good nor bad – it is.

As usual, it is not always possible to clearly separate childfree and childless. However, the very fact that a well-known politician is childless is enough for childfree to interpret this as potential support for their position.

Here are just some of the famous politicians who never had their own children for various reasons:

  • Emmanuel Macron, current President of France.
  • Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Netherlands.
  • Angela Merkel, former Chancellor of Germany.
  • Theresa May, former British Prime Minister.
  • Stefan Löfven, former Prime Minister of Sweden.
  • Paolo Gentiloni, former Prime Minister of Italy.

Most of the “former” retired due to advanced age and other circumstances, but their long enough stay in senior government positions clearly contributed to a more tolerant acceptance of childfree ideas by society.

The theme of childfree sovereignly takes its place in literature and art. In 2020, a book was published written by the writer Tala Totskaya “Childfree” (read online at the link) [ T. Totskaya, 2020 ].

Even earlier, modern music artists Noize MC and Monetochka delighted fans with a video for their song “Childfree”:

Perhaps, by common efforts, over time, our society will become more tolerant and understand that private life is a personal right and personal choice of everyone. And this applies not only to the topic of having children.

We want you to always find mutual understanding with the people around you. We are ready to help you with this by offering our programs ” Self-Knowledge ” and ” Psychology of Relationships “. And also please answer the question on the topic of the article:




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