In the past 30 years, family values have changed a whole lot: people are not eager to get married or have children, and there are more and more people who prefer to live alone. There are a lot of factors that created this change in how people think and we will talk about each of them in this article. At the end of the article, there’s a prediction of what might happen if this trend continues to rise.
Bright Side tried to understand the reasons for why there are more and more people who don’t see family and children as a part of their most important life goals.
All around the world, people start thinking about having their first child much later than their ancestors did. This tendency is most noticeable in developed countries: the average age when women decide to become mothers is between 30-34 years old. The number of those who didn’t become mothers until between the ages of 40-44 has doubled and so has the number of people who’ve decided to not have children at all.
The birth rate in developing countries has dropped too: in the 60s, an average woman had about 6 children, now it’s about 4, and in some regions — no more than 2.
Year after year, more and more companies realize that employees can’t stay productive for 8 hours, 5 days a week. So employers are deciding to experiment with work schedules. One of the possible schedules for modern people is a 4-day week with as just 5 hours per day. But, despite the technological progress and the perspective of spending less time at work, people work more than the rules say: 73% work more than 40 hours per week, and 25% — more than 50 hours. In many countries, workaholism is a normal phenomenon which, of course, is not a positive factor when it comes to building a family and having a child.
Despite the fact that most people work more than normal, the income level has dropped significantly in the past 30 years. Millennials are the first generation with a good education and the lowest income level. Since the moment when the college diploma stopped being a rare thing and employers’ requirements have become more rigorous, finding a good workplace and actually working there has become a true challenge and a never-ending source of stress. And this economic situation poses a question: family or career? In the modern world, it is almost impossible to effectively have both.
Before, the younger generation looked to older generations and wanted to learn from their experience, now the situation has been flipped: 30-year-olds look at the hobbies and opportunities of 20-year-olds and they want to do the same. Living alone has become simpler and more profitable and now there is more of a chance to find yourself in the world and to only have to pay attention to your own interests.
American social scientists have done a study that showed that men are not ready to have a child if it means that it will be a problem for their hobbies and interests or if they will have to sacrifice their ability to travel. Women have a similar point of view, but they try not to tell people about it since they are afraid of public judgment.
Not everyone chooses to be alone because they want to, it is often because they can’t find an ideal partner. According to a study, 85% of single people from 18-34 wanted to have a family at some point, but they are not willing to get married just because society tells them to. And before these people meet the right person, they are okay with just being single, rather than being in a couple until they find a better option.
Those who are already in a relationship now take a much longer time to decide whether they want to get married or not: on average, it takes them 4.9 years before they decide to get married, which is another reason why they get married so late and have children even later.
In many countries, more than 50% of marriages end in divorce: people postpone having a child because they are not sure that they can spend their entire life with their partner. And this is one of the reasons why modern families are so fragile: in the past, people needed very serious reasons to get divorced, and today the situation is very different.
People have a lot of alternatives to marriage: like guest marriage, free relationships, and so on. And apps like Tinder have made the search for a partner as simple as possible. But despite all this convenience and freedom, the quality of relationships has taken a toll: people get interested in each other and forget about each other very quickly.
In the past, marriage was considered to be the first step toward adult life. Now, this is the last step. People take a lot of time to consider all the pros and cons and want to be completely ready before they become parents.
Few people are ready to have children if they live in a rented apartment. Young people now try to pay off their mortgage before they have a child, they save money for babysitters, kindergartens, schools, college, and any other possible expenses. Usually, when people are ready to pay for all of these things, they are past middle age, and this is when they ask themselves another question: a child late in life — should they have it?
The birthrate is being affected not only by the current economic situation, but also by past experience. For example, young people in the US remember pretty well how hard it was for their parents to raise them: huge college bills are taken out and have to be paid back by students or already retired parents have to continue to pay them and have to put off retirement. Of course, modern adult people see this and they don’t want to have the same experience, which stops them from having their own children.
In South Korea, the birthrate situation is not very good, either. Here, millennials are called the “3 Give-Up” generation because they gave up 3 things: meeting new people, marriage, and children. About 70% of young people older than 20 think that all these things would only make their lives more difficult.
It is much harder for women to tell the world that they want to live just for themselves because the image of a mother is still very strong in society. So some women decide to have children just to fulfill their “duty” in the eyes of the public.
In 2015, the study Regretting Motherhood shook the public and caused a lot of criticism on one side and approval on the other: 23 women from Israel admitted that having a child didn’t only not make them happy, but it actually made them regret their decision. A similar study was conducted in Germany and it was found that every 5th German would like to go back to the past and not become a parent.
Modern families are a lot different from what they used to be like: young people mostly live separately from older people, and grandmothers and grandfathers want to live their own lives and see their grandchildren only on the holidays. In the families where both parents work, this may be a problem: they have to look for a babysitter which requires additional expenses and being ready to trust your child with a complete stranger. Besides, family ties are not as strong anymore, so nobody can be sure that one of the partners won’t just leave the family at any moment.
Now, the most popular question, “Who will bring me a glass of water when I’m old?” doesn’t make people want to have children anymore. It is very likely that children and relatives will be replaced by nurses, because even now, nursing homes are full of old people who have children and grandchildren.
What kind of future is coming? One of the possible developments is a complete change in population. Gradually, the territory where people stop reproducing will be taken over by other nations. But, because the birth rate is dropping, even in developing countries, at a certain moment the number of people on the planet will decrease to an optimal number. Economists and ecology experts have been talking about this for many years.
What do you think — is it really harder to start a family now and decide to have a child or is it just because people don’t want that responsibility?
Preview photo credit Vyacheslav Chistyakov / Getty Images