Pessimistic view of the future influences the transition to parenthood

New sociological research from Tilburg University shows that a pessimistic view of the future in which the next generation will grow up influences young people’s decision to enter parenthood. "For people with a pessimistic view of the future, it does not stop at just talking. They are actually less likely to make the transition to parenthood."

Researcher Katya Ivanova from Tilburg University: "In a time characterized by climate change, increasing inequality and polarization, it is not surprising that many young people have concerns about the future and the world in which their children will grow up. Research shows that young people hesitate to start parenthood for this reason. What has not been well explored, however, is whether these considerations translate into actual fertility behavior. In other words, whether a bleak perception of the future actually means that people forego parenthood."

To determine whether those who view the future more negatively are indeed less likely to become parents, Dutch adults were observed for a longer period of time. Results show that people who are more pessimistic about social developments and the future of the next generation are actually less likely to start parenthood. "For people with a pessimistic view of the future, it is not just about talking. In the time that we observe these people, we see that they are actually less likely to enter parenthood," the researcher states.

Expected quality of life of potential children is focal

It is striking that the research shows that people are clearly more optimistic about their own future than about the future of society in general. This means that the findings are not just the result of people feeling negative about their own prospects. It is the expected quality of life of potential children that is central. Foregoing parenthood for these reasons might be easier in countries where the choice not to have children is becoming increasingly acceptable, such as the Netherlands.

Dr. Katya Ivanova: "These results are important to explain the current trend of declining birth rates in the Northern Hemisphere. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) estimates that 25.1% of women born around 1995 could remain childless. In 1945 this was 11.7% of women. In the Dutch data that we used we also see an increase in the 18-25 age group of respondents who indicate that they do not expect to have children in the future. After all, people have children with the hope that their children will fare better than, or at least as well as, themselves."