a man and a woman enjoying their peaceful existence without kids

A Psychologist Examines The 'Childless By Choice' Trend

Here are two key wisoms for people who voluntarily eschew parenthood.

Mark Travers, Ph.D.

By Mark Travers, Ph.D. | January 7, 2024

Traditional wisdom suggests that we all have an innate desire to have kids, and not giving in to this desire comes at the cost of regret. However, according to a recent study published in PLOS ONE, this may not necessarily be the case.

The study found that one in five adults surveyed opts to go childless. Interestingly, they often make this decision in their teens or early twenties, and it tends to persist into their 40s and beyond, countering the widespread notion that adults who are childless by choice are “missing out.”

There are some people who are more likely to take the child-free plunge—LGBTQIA individuals, white males and single adults. Unfortunately, the social stigma of being “childless by choice” can sometimes lead to challenges, according to the study:

  • Some medical professionals may deny the choice to be voluntarily sterilized because they think people will eventually regret the decision.
  • Not-yet-parents, childless adults and undecided adults are more likely to treat parents with more warmth than those who go childless by choice.

The realities and challenges of going childless are complex. Drawing from psychological insights, here are two essential tips that can help you confidently navigate and embrace a child-free lifestyle, ensuring you and your partner fully enjoy and make the most of your decision. 

1. Make A Pros And Cons List Of Having Children, And Do It Early In Life

It can seem unnecessary if you are already leaning toward being child-free, but begin with the question: “Should I have kids?”

This is effective because it allows you to have an open mind. According to a 2022 study published in Experimental Aging Research, the older you are, the less likely you are to be open-minded, which can negatively impact your ability to make rational, well-thought-out decisions.

This could explain why the PLOS ONE study found that people who made the decision to go childless early in life persisted in their decision well into their midlife: They were able to make an informed decision, unclouded by the pressures of societal expectation and judgment.

The best way to arrive at an informed decision about this is to put yourself in a parent’s shoes early in life. Here are some pros and cons you may want to ponder:


  • Emotional bonding. Do you see yourself enjoying the unique, profound love and bond that comes with raising a child?
  • Legacy and continuity. Are you excited by the prospect of passing on values, knowledge and family traditions to the next generation?
  • Personal growth. Parenting can lead to immense personal growth, as it often requires developing patience, understanding and selflessness. Are you keen on experiencing this?


  • Time and freedom. Parenting requires a significant time commitment, which can limit your ability to pursue other interests or career opportunities. Are you willing to make significant sacrifices for your children?
  • Financial cost. Raising a child can be financially demanding. Will your career and finances provide a sufficiently good life for your children?
  • Emotional and physical stress. Parenting can be emotionally and physically exhausting. Are you willing and able to plan your life around your children? 

All this to say, there are several factors to consider when making a decision like this. To avoid regret, a pros and cons list is essential. For best results, do this once you are in a serious relationship, and collaborate with your partner to arrive at a shared view. 

2. Work On Building A Rock-Solid Support System

If you have decided to go childless, mentally prepare yourself for a certain degree of stigmatization. There may be uncomfortable situations where some people may assume you are biologically infertile, jump to conclusions about your sexuality or even question your sense of responsibility and maturity.

Others might make assumptions about your financial situation or your priorities in life. It’s important to remember that these perceptions are often rooted in societal norms and personal biases, and they reflect more about the people holding them than about your life choices. When choosing a child-free lifestyle, it’s crucial to surround yourself with a supportive network.

This mirrors the findings of a 2017 study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, which emphasizes our natural inclination to gravitate towards people who share our values and life choices. This is especially relevant for childfree individuals, as having a support system of like-minded friends and family can provide a buffer against societal stigmatization and offer a sense of belonging.

These connections can affirm your decision, offer perspectives from those on a similar path, and provide emotional support, making it easier to navigate and fully enjoy your childfree life. 


The decision to have children is deeply personal and should be made after thoughtful consideration with your partner. It’s essential to stay true to your values and desires, without being swayed by external opinions. Remember, regret often stems not from the path you choose, but from not living life on your own terms. Embrace your decision with confidence and enjoy the unique journey it brings.

A similar version of this article can also be found on, here.

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