Parenthood vs. Anti-Parenthood

Father’s Day is this Sunday, so I thought it would be as good a time as any for this blog to scratch the surface of an alarming trend: one that I will call, for lack of a better term, Anti-Parenthood. This term refers to a significant portion of the population — particular those in their 20s and 30s, whether married or single — who plan to never have children, and harbor a sort of condescending arrogance toward “breeders”. I was prompted to examine this trend after reading a recent Slate article in which advice columnist Emily Yoffe urges a soon-to-be-married couple to reconsider their desire not to have children. Her counsel struck a nerve with her readers:

The majority of letter-writers were not single but happily married and professionally successful—the people you’d expect would make wonderful parents, and in a previous generation probably would have. Many didn’t just write about the adult pleasures of their childless (or “childfree”) life . . . but expressed contempt for those deluded enough to want to reproduce. As one woman wrote: “My husband and I are childless by choice and I heartily encourage all younger friends to consider it. It is the most wonderful lifestyle, free of whining and sniveling and mini-vans.”

Experiencing the sheer happiness of being the dad of three young daughters, I find the anti-parenthood attitude shared by many of those my age to be both troubling and tragic. Considering that all men are called to fatherhood, whether biological or spiritual — and, similarly, considering that all women are called to motherhood, whether biological or spiritual — this all too common rejection of parenthood yields disastrous consequences on multiple levels because it is rooted in a selfish, “Non serviam” sort of attitude. The popularity of the anti-parenthood trend in our culture would never have been possible were it not for the breakdown in traditional values about sex, which went hand in hand with increasingly convenient access to contraception — and, when it failed, abortion. Much has been written about how sexual license, contraception, and abortion have visited horribly damaging effects on women. By comparison, however, there has been precious little written about their effects on men. There is an argument to be made that the consequences of the sexual revolution for men are just as serious as those for women. In an article titled “The Facts of Life and Marriage”, sociologist Brad Wilcox observes:

[Berkeley Professor George] Akerlof argues that another key outworking of the contraceptive revolution was the disappearance of marriage — shotgun and otherwise — for men. Contraception and abortion allowed men to put off marriage, even in cases where they had fathered a child. Consequently, the fraction of young men who were married in the United States dropped precipitously. Between 1968 and 1993 the percentage of men 25 to 34 who were married with children fell from 66 percent to 40 percent. Accordingly, young men did not benefit from the domesticating influence of wives and children. Instead, they could continue to hang out with their young male friends, and were thus more vulnerable to the drinking, partying, tomcatting, and worse that is associated with unsupervised groups of young men. Absent the domesticating influence of marriage and children, young men — especially men from working-class and poor families — were more likely to respond to the lure of the street. Akerlof noted, for instance, that substance abuse and incarceration more than doubled from 1968 to 1998. Moreover, his statistical models indicate that the growth in single men in this period was indeed linked to higher rates of substance abuse, arrests for violent crimes, and drinking. From this research, Akerlof concluded by arguing that the contraceptive revolution played a key, albeit indirect, role in the dramatic increase in social pathology and poverty this country witnessed in the 1970s; it did so by fostering sexual license, poisoning the relations between men and women, and weakening the marital vow.

As I noted earlier, this post is intended simply to scratch the surface. The growing anti-parenthood trend, along with the closely related anti-marriage trend, are only two of the bitter fruits that have emerged since the contraceptive mentality began to permeate our culture. This blog will continually revisit these issues in the future. HT: Amy Welborn

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