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Is The Media Encouraging Childlessness, And If So Why?

by The Participator – 21 Aug 2019

[TALKING POINT]

Most of our readers have probably seen articles with titles that suggest that childless women are either happy or the happiest women.

SEARCH 1 : “CHILDLESS WOMEN”

Here are some examples from an internet search for the phrase “childless women”. A Google search and a Startpage search produced a similar list of links including the following.

From Time magazine (2019):

Why I Have Zero Regrets About My Childless Life

From the Guardian (2019):

Singled out: why can’t we believe unmarried, childless women are happy?

From the Independent (2019), an article that suggests that having children damages a woman’s earning potential and career prospects:

Wondering why unmarried women without children are happiest? Listen to mothers and wives

The above article links to a study from the Equality and Human Rights Commission:

Three in four working mothers say they’ve experienced pregnancy and maternity discrimination

Quote:

The Equality and Human Rights Commission is today calling for the Government to take urgent action as new research suggests more than three quarters of pregnant women and new mothers, the equivalent of 390,000 women, experience negative and potentially discriminatory treatment at work each year.

From the Mirror (2017):

What being a childless and ‘middle-aged’ woman is really like – from loneliness to living the dream

From the New York Times (2018):

They Didn’t Have Children and, Most Said, They Don’t Have Regrets

From Today (2019):

Why aren’t millennials having kids? 8 insights into the child-free life

The first as it were truly dissenting voice that we came across in the search was from Quillette (2018), which is a relatively new media site:

Glamourising the ‘Childfree Life’ Ignores Reality for Most Childless Women

Quote:

This is not how the phenomenon is portrayed in the media. Magazine cover stories and news articles tout the so-called “childfree” life, assuming all childless women have chosen this fate, waving some sort of feminist flag. But the truth is, these women are not “free” of the children they yearn for. Motherhood is a burden that we would give anything to bear.

That does indeed appear to be the case so far, but let us try some more searches.

SEARCH 2: “HAVING CHILDREN”

A second internet search, this time for the phrase “having children”, also brought up articles that were not exactly encouraging.

From CNN, an article that reports on a study that claimed to have found that having children is only a benefit once the children have moved out of the parental home:

Having kids makes you happier — once they’ve moved out

Not really much incentive to have children then if they are nothing but a burden for 20 years! The same study was reported in many other media outlets, including the Times (UK), the Huffington Post, the New Scientist and others.

SEARCH 3: “REGRETS HAVING CHILDREN”

Obviously if you search for something specifically negative such as the phrase “regrets having children” then it is to be expected you will see results for articles that have themes that are negative about having children. However once again the search brings up articles from several household names.

From the Guardian:

‘It’s the breaking of a taboo’: the parents who regret having children

From the Telegraph:

I secretly wish I’d never had children

Other similar articles were found in a search specifically for Telegraph articles (we thought this search worth doing as the Telegraph is generally a right-wing media site that might be expected to have a more traditional bias).

From the BBC:

Should we stop having children?

In the above Radio 3 program there is a father claiming that he loves his children but he also agonizes over the environmental impact that he thinks they will have:

I love my children dearly, but are they the biggest moral mistake I ever made?

Of course the environmental impact is a theme that appears in other articles as well, e.g. this one from the Irish Times:

Philosophers claim global warming makes having children immoral

SEARCH 4: “I AM GLAD I HAD CHILDREN”

Finally for the sake of balance we also did a positive search, this time for the phrase “I am glad I had children”. The first two results were from sites we had never heard of before, called “Shambolic Living” and “Scary Mommy”. The 3rd result was actually a negative title, from Psychology Today:

Why You Should Have Never Had Kids (If You Want To Be Happy, That Is)

The fourth result, also from Psychology Today, urged mothers (note it does not refer to parents) to only have one child:

Mothers With One Child Are Happiest

The fifth result, from the Guardian (the first mainstream well known title to appear in this search result) was also negative:

Motherhood wasn’t for me – I’m happy to be a mad auntie instead

The sixth result from another site called Aware of Awareness which we had not heard of before was also negative:

I’m so glad I don’t have children

CONCLUSION

Of course the bias of search engines such as Google may also be having an influence in the results we are seeing. However since we specifically searched also for positive media articles and found again mainly negative articles, we conclude that there is indeed bias in the media that encourages women to have either no children, or children later in life, or fewer children, or that warns about the negative moral impact your children will have on the environment.

The next question is why does this media bias exist, which is a question we invite our readers to answer.

What do you think? Please leave a comment below.

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