In his new book, Stewart D Friedman examines the changing trends of parenthood
Stewart D Friedman in his latest book, Baby Bust says, “We did a true cross generational study where we interviewed 22 year olds from the same school, 20 years apart, in 1992 and 2012 asking the same question: Do you plan to have or adopt children? Answer, yes, probably, not sure, maybe, maybe not.”
It will not be so much of a revelation but more of an impulse for reflection when he reveals his findings. “In 1992, 78% of students, men and women, said yes, they wanted to have or adopt children. In 2012, only 48% of men and women answered in the affirmative. Even though the response was the same for men and women, the reasons why they answer as they do is very different…they show us the different factors that makes men and women opt out of having or adopting children, their fears that they will not be able to make it work.”
Friedman continues, “In terms of work ethics, we observed a change in the number of hours that they expected to work. In 1992, the number of hours per week was 58. In 2012 it was 72. For men, the reasons for not wanting to have children rose from their expected conflict between their work and expected family role. So young men now, expect, much more than their predecessors to have a spouse fully engaged in her career. In addition young men today are more likely to want to be more engaged on the domestic fronts as fathers, more psychologically and physically involved in family life and so the conflict between their work and potential family roles is much greater. They do not identify themselves as breadwinners, so the external markers like power prestige status matter less to them. But financial fears play a role in deciding to have children.”
Friedman says these trends are similar across many national and international studies. “The desire to have children of one’s own has not really shifted that much. What has changed when we compare the two generations is their intention...they cannot see how to do it. For women the reasons are very different. One has to do with their burgeoning interest in serving humanity, in doing work that has a positive social impact. Today’s students, people entering the labour market want to do work that has a positive impact on the social market. And for women to the extent that they saw that their careers will have a positive social impact they were less likely to have children. They seem to be forecasting that they would have to make a choice between one or other. They are also seeing a realistic picture, having seen their parent’s generation which went from 15% of mothers being employed in 1992 to 50% in 2012. Many women, are saying to themselves, if we are going to have children then one of us has to be at home and it is probably going to be me, so there is another tension. In addition, and this was more pronounced for women than for men, there is a greater interest in social networks, in professional and non-professional networks which are seen as more important. The other thing that has emerged is that there seems less of an imperative to have children,” says Friedman identifying the last observation with the decrease of religiosity. Friedman says with the rise in agnostics and atheists women chose less to have children of their own.
Talking of the 2012 generation, Freidman says that new parents plan to take much less time off after their children…it went down almost by half for both men and women. Men are more egalitarian. There is much more agreement between men and women about what it takes and they are struggling to define what it takes to be a man and what it takes to be a woman. Friedman says we are part of a revolution, roles are radically shifting, the conversation is completely new and employers have an interest…the cry is for freedom of flexibility…