Sex Ed

The 4 Main Reasons People Stop Having Kids

March 30, 2018 by Justin Lehmiller


Why do people who start a family decide it’s time to stop having children? A new set of studies published in the journal Marriage and Family Review identifies 4 primary factors that motivate people to stop procreating (incidentally, this study also identified the main reasons people decide to start having children in the first place, which you can learn more about in this post).

In the first study, researchers conducted in-depth interviews with 30 parents to identify the different reasons that led them to have not have additional children. From these interviews, they generated a list of 23 potential motivations. In the second study, 536 adults were given this list of motivations and asked to indicate which of these factors led them to stop having children in the past or that were likely to stop them from having more kids in the future.

Statistical analyses were then performed to find which of the motivations clustered or hung together in order to extract broader themes. The 4 themes that emerged in the end were as follows (note that they are listed in order from most- to least-commonly endorsed):

1.) Satiation (e.g., “I feel that I already have enough children,” “I don’t feel that I have the necessary energy it takes for another child,” “I feel complete with the child/children that I already have”)

2.) Lack of time (e.g., “I don’t have enough time to dedicate to them,” “Due to professional responsibilities,” “I don’t have enough time to dedicate to the children I already have”)

3.) Pragmatic reasons (e.g., “For financial reasons,” “The conditions in this world are so negative that I wouldn’t want to bring more children into the world,” “There is no space in the house for another child”)

4.) Biological constraints (e.g., “There are serious illnesses in my family and I wouldn’t want to have children that are likely to suffer from these illnesses,” “I had a difficult pregnancy/my wife had a difficult pregnancy with our previous child or children,” “I have health problems that make it difficult/impossible to have more children, although I would like to”)

Of course, this list doesn’t necessarily comprise all possible reasons people decide to stop having kids; however, it does offer a sense of some of the most common, overarching factors that stop procreation. It also tells us that these factors are biopsychosocial in nature, meaning they can be due to our own biology, our psychological state(s), and/or the social and environmental factors that surround us.

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To learn more about this research, see: Apostolou, M., & Hadjimarkou, M. (2018). Domains of Motivation in Men and Women for Initiating and Terminating Procreation in an Evolutionary Perspective. Marriage & Family Review.

Image Source: 123RF/alessandro0770

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Written by
Dr. Justin Lehmiller
Founder & Owner of Sex and Psychology

Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.

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