An increasing number of people are choosing a smaller family size, while many others decide to forego having children entirely. While the choice to remain childless remains subject to criticism by some, the topic of voluntary childlessness is increasingly up for debate.
In March 2016, a 30-year-old woman from London was granted the right to be sterilised, following a four-year battle with the National Health Service (NHS). Holly Brockwell’s long-fought victory was widely discussed in the media, and she received numerous negative comments.
In this briefing, it will be argued that the negative reactions surrounding smaller families, especially childlessness, are irrational.
The briefing will defend the right to choose one’s family size in various ways. First, acknowledged human rights allow people to choose their preferred family size. Second, the possibility of future regret is not a viable argument against respecting someone’s right to choose childlessness. Third, the obligation to act responsibly often leads to the conclusion that childlessness, or a small family, are better choices.
While those who choose to forego having children are sometimes labelled as selfish, no choice can truly be selfish when no one suffers directly from that choice. No actual child is involved when an adult chooses to stay childless.
Most adults who choose to remain childless do so after extensive reflection on their lives and on the state of the environment around them. Bearing in mind that population growth has devastating consequences for the quality and sustainability of the environment, it cannot be argued that the choice to have a small family, or to forego having children entirely, is selfish. It should, rather, be commended.
Thus, rather than criticising childless individuals, or opposing the trend of small families, people should open their minds to the fact that life fulfilment does not depend on parenthood. The successes of many renowned childless individuals through the ages, and their significant contributions to our world, illustrate that perfectly.