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Why do we have children?

  1. Jul 9, 2015 #1
    Hello all,

    I always wonder in this: do people make rational decision (now where we have the capabilities to control births) when deciding to bring children to this world, or it is just an evolutionary instinct? I think of it as following: They cost us a huge amount of money, effort, and time, but the world is a tough place, and our children probably will suffer tremendously in life as we all do anyway. Above all, we might end up fighting with them when they grow up the rest of our life. Do we really care about the perpetuation of our species at any cost?

    I would like to hear your thoughts.

  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 10, 2015 #2


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    Though I can't really support this (the data shows a corellation, but doesn't necessarily imply a causation), it appears to me that the drive to have children is primarily instinctive. That would follow from our relatives in the animal kingdom who don't posess anywhere near our intelligence. That's both direct ("I want to have children") and indirect ("I want to have sex"). That would explain why developed nations and the wealthy/successful tend to have fewer children than the unsuccessful/undeveloped.

    Before someone jumps on me for saying the poor are irrational for having kids, please recognize that being an adolescent is somewhat of a minefield and the cause-effect relationship can easily go the other way (it appears to me): kids cause poverty, not poverty causes kids. Though there is somewhat of a feedback loop, the causation is stronger from that direction.
  4. Jul 10, 2015 #3
    Could it be that, besides the general biological urge, humans are selfish.

    Although society does ask that all members of the society play some role for the upbringing of children, parents generally pass on the bulk of the fruits of their hard labour to their own children as a sort of extension of themselves. Thus perhaps by heredity, the perpetuation of the species is continued, hoping perhaps that your own progeny will be the winners by providing for them. Big question is: Who do you provide for if you do not have children of your own?
  5. Jul 10, 2015 #4
    Raising the question doesn't mean I am against having children. In fact I am planning of having them someday. But it seems to me, it is a very strong evolutionary instinct, because, even though we can have sex without having children these days, where the pleasure of sex has been the driving force to propagate our genes, however, most of us choose to have them.

    Even in the wealthy nations, where people have financial securities in their older ages, most of them choose to have children. I think that is why in the developed countries there are fewer children. On the contrary, in the developing world, children are somehow the financial securities, so I think poverty causes kids, not the other way around. This is supported by data shown by the Swedish scientist Hans Rosling.
  6. Jul 10, 2015 #5
    I believe humans have the right to be happy, and data shows that having children doesn't cause that. I like the premise though that we try to extend ourselves in our children, for them to be more successful than us. But do we think of this the time we decide to have children?
  7. Jul 10, 2015 #6


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    What data?

    While it can certainly be taxing in-the-thick-of-it, it is exceedingly rare to find people who look back over their lives and actually regret having children. It is long-term happiness, not short-term.
  8. Jul 10, 2015 #7
    I think having them changes our perspective toward them. We wouldn't give up on them after having them or regret having them. They are our responsibility no matter what. Regarding the data, I was reading the other day a book with the title "The Optimism Bias" and a statistical study with this regard was mentioned.

    What I am trying to say is that we are not driven by happiness or pleasure to have children, there is something deep in our nature drives us in this direction.
  9. Jul 10, 2015 #8


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    I never wanted children but my husband insisted. I know many people that don't want children. Neither of my sisters had children, and my children do not want children.

    Many other people I know just wanted children so they had someone to take care of them when they got older, a number of them had bad kids that ruined their lives and their parent's lives, and they now regret having had kids. For other's it worked out great and they are happy.

    It's a crap shoot.
  10. Jul 10, 2015 #9
    Reproduction is just a chemical reaction. DNA is capable of this run-away chemical reaction, which seems to reach a state which is stable over millions of years, even though species come and go. We might think reproduction is under our own volition as a species, but the software in the brain was also put there by DNA as part of the process! At some point it is likely that the chemistry will switch its energy to a different species.
  11. Jul 10, 2015 #10


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    Can you explain what that means? And what is your source?
  12. Jul 10, 2015 #11


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    I think you significantly overestimate the amount of thought the average person gives to, well, almost any decision they make. Why do you think religion is practiced? Why do people dress the way they do, work at what they do, etc? In general, the world/life is/are very complicated and we have a limited ability to understand it. So people tend to avail themselves of the wisdom of the crowds, which is not always a bad ( nor good) thing.

    I mean, I think people do , to some degree, subconsciously, some sort of cost-benefit analysis. But there are too many factors here: societal pressures, wanting to pass their name, etc.

    But nowadays the rate of population growth has greatly slowed in most of the world.
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2015
  13. Jul 10, 2015 #12
    I agree, there are brain's processes that are not accessible to the conscious part of the brain, and perhaps having children cannot be rationalized by only considering your direct happiness and pleasures.

    I haven't experienced it it, but from what I saw, the day children graduate or get married creates an overwhelming joy and happiness to their parents, even though, their children's graduation or marriage doesn't necessarily benefit the parents. On the contrary, it means they now have their independent life, and they will pursue their own life, and the cycle repeats itself.
  14. Jul 10, 2015 #13


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    This thread is not going to go anywhere since it's all personal choices for an unlimited number of personal reasons.
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