Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Butt Out: Advice Columnist and Readers Weigh In.

Zip your mouth about their decision
I'm printing this as a public service announcement, so that the people who do apply this kind of pressure will have a chance to see the error of their ways. For those who do like to weigh in on someone's fertility choices, a suggestion: Next time you feel the urge to comment, bite down on something instead.
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Monday, October 20, 2008

Why does parenthood make us unhappy

Remaining puzzle #11: Why does parenthood make us unhappy?
Social surveys often show that parents are less happy than comparable adults without children. This makes no sense from an evolutionary psychological perspective. Happiness (and other emotions) have been evolutionarily selected to induce us to do the right thing in order to attain reproductive success in the context of the ancestral environment.
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I have discovered this to be the case in my own work as well. . . . being married is great, but it’s not as great if you also have children.

In her recent article “The Joys of Parenthood, Reconsidered,” published in the American Sociological Association’s journal Contexts, the sociologist Robin W. Simon, who has done a lot of research on emotional well-being of parents and nonparents, notes that parents have more frequent negative emotions, and less frequent positive emotions, than nonparents of comparable age. However, she also points out that parents derive “more purpose, more meaning, and greater satisfaction from life” than do nonparents. I wonder if these deeper, philosophical satisfaction with life is meant to encourage humans to reproduce despite more immediate frequent negative emotions and less frequent positive emotions.

The only reason I can think of for why parenthood may make us unhappy is that we are raising our children today in a wholly unnatural environment, in an entirely unnatural manner, relative to our ancestral environment.
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I . . . wonder whether the “more purpose, more meaning, and greater satisfaction from life” that parents derive than nonparents do means that parents are in fact happier than nonparents despite a whole host of negative emotions they experience more frequently and positive emotions they experience less frequently. At any event, why the very act of reproductive success makes us unhappy, when we are designed to achieve it and everything we do is ultimately geared toward it, remains a mystery for evolutionary psychology (and, once again, only for evolutionary psychology).
So... being happy less often and being sad more often isn't a good indicator of who is "happier"? I'm going to call upon our resident psychological and statistical expert Vinny to determine whether the indications of deriving more meaning reveal actual emotional states or an intellectual excercise we conduct to make us feel better about being less happy. That is, if he can tear himself away from his own PhD research in the meantime.
On second thought, keep studying. There seems to be a pervasive pronatal psychological groupthink, evidenced by the constant strain to find some ultimate pro-parenting indicator despite glaring statistics to the contrary. I think we need some well-trained academics not prone to this intellectual dishonesty.
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Thursday, October 09, 2008

Why I, like hundreds of other young women, chose to be sterilised at the age of 21

Eight years on, the politics PhD student from London is adamant she has never suffered a moment's regret.

'It's difficult to pinpoint the moment I realised I never, ever wanted children of my own, because it's something I've always known,' says Jacquelyn, 29, who lives with her boyfriend of four years, David, 29, an advertising account manager for Microsoft.

'It wasn't a case of waking up one morning and thinking: "I don't want children, I'm going to be sterilised." I just knew.

'Even as a little girl, I was never interested in dolls or playing mums and dads in the playground. I was happier with a set of Lego bricks.

'A couple of my friends have children, but on the whole I'm not too fond of them. I'm not very good at playing with them or giving cuddles, so I tend to keep my distance.

'I also think that growing up as an only child may have exacerbated my desire not to have babies - I was very independent even as a youngster and wasn't used to being around other children.

'I don't feel any less womanly because I'm sterile, either. Femininity is about much more than being able to bear children, it's to do with your whole sense of identity and I've always been very clear about who I am and what I want.
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What's intriguing about her story is that Jacquelyn is an intelligent woman who had thought deeply about her choice and was still resolved to see it through - even if she was at an age when most women are more concerned with what they wear than whether they might want children now or in the future.
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Lengthy research showed Jacquelyn there were two choices; either take a chance with a sympathetic GP to get a referral (the NHS is reluctant to perform sterilisations on women under 30 who don't already have children), or go private and pay £500 to have the operation at a Marie Stopes clinic, the UK's leading provider of sexual and reproductive health services.

Sensing that at just 21 she would be greeted with dismay by the NHS, which performs around 40,000 female sterilisations every year, the majority on women who already have children, she bypassed her GP and went to Marie Stopes in Brixton, South London, in October 2000.

'I was still prepared for an interrogation because of my age and the doctor's first words were: "You're very young. Do you understand what sterilisation is and the implications it would have on your life?"

'But after a 30-minute conversation, she realised I had made an informed choice. I made an appointment to be sterilised a month later.' . . .

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