Is there any good evidence around the Biological Clock / Baby Clock?
May 7, 2014 3:40 AM Subscribe
Has there ever been a prospective study tracking how many people who say "I'll definitely never want children" end up changing their minds? Or vice versa?
posted by metaBugs to Society & Culture (4 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
At least in British (perhaps all Western?) culture, the "biological clock" is a widespread idea: young people, especially women, who aren't interested in kids will reach a certain age and suddenly become consumed by the desire to have some, or a regret that they didn't.
Talking to friends and searching the 'net, it's very easy to find stories of young people who say they'll definitely never want kids (and are sick of being told otherwise), and older people who started like that and either did or didn't change their mind in the end. However, given the extremely strong selection biases in how people choose to post and spread these anecdotes (e.g. "child-free" communities vs mumsnet), it's really tough to get a sense of the proportions, and whether there really is any widespread trend.
Given that this has pretty big social/health policy implications (not least fertility control; I've talked to both men and women who've been denied sterilisation surgeries because it's assumed they'll change their minds later), what credible research has been done into this assumption? I'd love to see something like a big prospective study, yielding a % of people who've changed their mind in either direction, but I'd be interested in any credible, formal research investigating the idea.
NB: Hopefully this goes without saying, but I'm not suggesting that a lack of academic research invalidates peoples' experiences, or that the existence of a trend would make people who run counter to that trend "wrong" in any way. I'm just curious whether an effect actually exists at the population level, and how that effect compares to the received wisdom. Individual anecdotes -- or collections of anecdotes from a self-selecting population -- are not useful for assessing this.