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No future, no kids–no kids, no future?

An exploration of motivations to remain childfree in times of climate change

Abstract

Individuals around the world believe global climate change is a major threat, with media attention and polling suggesting young adults may decide to go childfree as a result. Yet, there is limited research on the link between environmental concern and reproductive attitudes. The purpose of this research was to explore how climate change-related concerns affect reproductive attitudes and motivations to remain childfree. Two studies were conducted: study 1 consisted of a content analysis of reader comments on articles discussing going childfree in response to climate change, and study 2 featured semi-structured interviews conducted in New Zealand and the USA. The impact of future children on the planet, in the context of overpopulation and overconsumption, was a major theme in both studies. Perspectives of doom and hope emerged simultaneously, indicating how climate anxiety influences reproductive attitudes. Study findings point at implications for public policy makers regarding this largely neglected perspective on climate change adaptation and mitigation and potential psychological and societal effects.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    ‘Childless’ refers to individuals who desire to be parents but are unable to, ‘childfree’ indicates individuals who choose to not procreate even though they have the ability to do so and is a result of socio-cultural shifts in social norms and personal values (Blackstone & Stewart, 2016).

  2. 2.

    Researchers influenced by positivist or postpositivist philosophies believe triangulation overcomes the limitations to only using one approach to research, providing a means to verify the findings of different methods (Salkind, 2010). Conversely, researchers influenced by a constructivist philosophy believe the benefits of triangulation are in its ability to provide multiple viewpoints on the phenomenon of interest and deepen the understanding of the research question (Salkind, 2010).

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Correspondence to Joya A. Kemper.

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Helm, S., Kemper, J. & White, S. No future, no kids–no kids, no future?. Popul Environ 43, 108–129 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11111-021-00379-5

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Keywords

  • Fertility intentions
  • Reproductive attitudes
  • Reproduction
  • Environmental concern
  • Childfree
  • Climate change
  • Overconsumption
  • Overpopulation