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AIBU? consider social impact of family size?

105 replies

nornironrock · 08/07/2017 08:01

I'm wondering if anyone else ever gives consideration to the social impact of their family size? I'm thinking about allocation of public resources, consumption of limited resources (such as water), and in the longer term issues such as housing and healthcare provision.

I certainly believe everyone should be free to have the family size they want insofar as they are able to support that number of people, but I sometimes wonder what the future holds if we don't get a handle on population.

In the past, before we had medical science to keep people like my son alive, and to allow us all to live past 50, a bigger family was often required to enable the family to generate income, and look after older members. This requirement doesn't exist now.

I'm genuinely interested to hear peoples thoughts on this.

OP posts:
waffilyversati1e · 08/07/2017 08:08

What do you mean "support that number of people"? I presume your son has his education paid for by you and has private healthcare since I would have thought they would be the most social impactful things in his young life?

I didn't think too much about whether my offspring would be a drain on the economy to be honest. I did think about what I could afford to give my kids (both financially and emotionally) and I overshot by quite a long way clearly as I am now living week to week and have depression.

SelkieQualia · 08/07/2017 08:09

The world's birth rate has dropped to replacement levels. Within a few decades, the world's population should stabilise at 10 billion.

nornironrock · 08/07/2017 08:15

I'm sorry to hear you're having a rough time Waffily, I've suffered much the same in the past. I hope you start feeling better soon.

I live in the UK where there is a social contract in place that all children are entitled to education provided by the state, the cost for this being borne by those paying tax, with universal healthcare being provided in much the same way (with a couple of exceptions such as dentistry). As my wife and I both pay (a lot of) tax, I'd say that we do pay/contribute to the those costs at a level I am sure society would deem acceptable.

OP posts:
CousinChloe · 08/07/2017 08:17

I'm really pleased to see someone else asking this question - I genuinely don't mean to criticise others but I keep thinking that having a third child or not is the thing I can do (or not do!) to have the biggest impact on the environment. Another person's worth of power, flights, plastic bottles etc.
Then again, the hypothetical third baby could become the scientist to discover a waste free means of generating power from plastic or something much cleverer.

CousinChloe · 08/07/2017 08:18

I hasten to add that as I have already chosen to have two children I'm not in any position to judge others for having had children!

islandandshores · 08/07/2017 08:21

I think about it a lot, and it concerns me hugely.

Chloe it isn't about judging people for having children. I strongly believe people have the right to have children. However, when people have children beyond replacement level (more than two) we run into problems.

Joffmognum · 08/07/2017 08:26

Economically, any one individual family in the UK can have however many children they like. We can't afford to ALL have 9 kids, but the cost of children (school, NHS, tax credits) tends to more than make it's money back as the child pays taxes when it's older. We are producing less as a country than we support, if that makes sense. Different countries are different but in the UK it's fine.

Environmentally, however, I completely agree with you. Kids are awful. Humans are awful. If all the governments decided on a one child policy (zero is ideal but we need people to look after us when we are old) mother nature would thank us. But you could take that one step further and ban cars and eating meat and shipping overseas. It's about balancing the earth and what we want and whilst I think humans are taking the mick at the moment, shaming people for having lots of children won't help that. Education about personal impact and the benefits of not flying, recycling and animal welfare will probably do more good. People won't stop having kids because you tell them to.

HipsterHunter · 08/07/2017 08:28

What about the costs of NOT having children? We need future educated intelligent workers paying taxes to contribute to fund things like the NHS.

Personally I'd rather highly qualified high earning families had more children and Vicky Pollard had less...

mygorgeousmilo · 08/07/2017 08:28

I kind of get it, I have thought about this too. I agree that population increase could be detrimental to the planet overall, but I have more than the average amount of kids and I attempt to counter it by trying to give them the tools to become really worthwhile members of society. They understand recycling, we don't eat stuff from packets full of palm oil, we try not to be wasteful. They've all had reusable nappies, and the electric etc used is the same as we all live underbelly one roof and they all go to the same school. We do travel a LOT, but all go on the same mode of transport, I don't think I've ever been on a completely packed flight. Money-wise I believe we pay enough tax to cover the services we use, and am labouring under the assumption that they'll all grow up and be super clever and wonderful and contribute greatly to society as a whole. We contribute a lot to our local and the international community and teach our kids that we expect the same from them. I've always been fairly community minded, so not sure if having a few kids has intensified my feelings on this, or if I'd be doing it anyway.

missiondecision · 08/07/2017 08:29

Another thread judging people with more than 2 children for using "all" the resources.

mygorgeousmilo · 08/07/2017 08:33

Under - not underbelly FFS!
Also, we eat almost totally organic, British, seasonal produce. Basically doing and trying anything that reduces our dent in the planet, where physically possible.

nornironrock · 08/07/2017 08:34

mission I don't think anyone has stated that children in bigger families are using "all" the resources... I certainly didn't. I simply asked if anyone considered the impact of bigger families.

OP posts:
BasketOfDeplorables · 08/07/2017 08:37

Large families tend only to be the norm where women have no choice in the matter. When women can access contraception they limit the number of children they have, due to the physical cost and effort of pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding.

Obviously there will be outliers who have loads of kids, and others who have none at all. If every couple capped at 2 children we wouldn't be at replacement levels because plenty of people only have one or none at all.

user1498911470 · 08/07/2017 08:42

Maybe the Vicky Pollards of this world should be sterilised then? Oh wait, somebody already tried that :-(

Changednamejustincase · 08/07/2017 08:43

I think we would be better banning flights and limiting car journeys. We have 3 DC, walk everywhere and haven't been near an airport in 15 years. Plenty of people fly across the world several times a year or even commute weekly to other countries. Their environmental impact is greater than ours. Obviously we can't control what our DC choose to do when they are older but we will teach them to appreciate the world and the impact selfish actions can have on the lives and the very existence of others. Travel and excessive consumption is destroying the world. People don't care. I don't think they should be able to just do what they want as soon it will be do late.

NameChanger22 · 08/07/2017 08:48

I think that cars and meat consumption are our main problems.

I don't think we should ever restrict the number of children people have but I think we should advise people that two is enough for any family. I think having one or two children means those children will get enough attention and care. With more it gets trickier.

PotteringAlong · 08/07/2017 08:52

I have 3 children. I can honestly say that I didn't consider the impact on the environment one iota when making the decision to have another - it was a heart over head decision. Blush

PotteringAlong · 08/07/2017 08:54

And yes, as changedname said, the thing about having more children is that we can't afford foreign holidays so our carbon footprint is probably a lot better than all of the one child families jetting off to Disneyland Grin

WankYouForTheMusic · 08/07/2017 08:54

I echo the pp who has asked if you're also interested in whether people consider the social impact of not having more children. Because that is something that is also going to have a significant effect. I have the socially sanctioned, slap bang in the middle 2 kids by the way, and not having any more, so that's not really my horse. But it is undoubtedly the case that people born in the UK not having sufficient children to replace ourselves is going to have a stellar impact on our society in the future. I've no issue with immigration myself, but it would be stupid to think nobody does.

That said, bringing an entire new Westerner into the world has a bigger environmental impact than not flying or not having a car.

chupsmelad · 08/07/2017 08:56

This was a big part of DP's argument against having a third, FWIW.

We also walk/cycle/train everywhere and rarely travel by air (every couple of years, which granted is still more often than most people in the world).

shrunkenhead · 08/07/2017 09:00

BasketofDeplorables who do you mean when you say "women who have no choice"?
I have heard this said by older women and it's said as if they didn't have a choice but to have sex. While I appreciate the pill hasn't always been available to us, condoms have been around a long time.... but I have often heard "but of course we didn't have a choice...." Re planned pregnancies and it always makes me wonder if they HAD to sleep with their husbands/saying no wasn't an option/rape?

Fab39ish · 08/07/2017 09:03

No. I didn't consider it. We had two DC so just replacing each other. Than we had an unplanned 3rd.
However, I am one of 6 and between us we had 6 DC so with couples we are not even replacing each other. Same in my friendship group.

KERALA1 · 08/07/2017 09:07

Bothered me op. So stopped at 2. But you will be flooded with large family parents telling you that the Ponzi scheme to keep having more and more children to support large older populations is the only way. None have been able to explain how this works re impact on environment though.

Babbitywabbit · 08/07/2017 09:08

You've raised an interesting debate OP - let's hope it doesn't get dominated by vacuous comments such as 'oh you're judging anyone with more than 2 kids' because it's very clear that you're not.

I have 3 children (now adult) and we considered affordability as a family unit (i.e. We waited until we could afford to pay childcare to enable us to remain in our careers, and this was before any subsidies; we ensured we could house and feed 3 children etc) However if I'm honest i don't think I thought a huge amount about the wider societal impact.

Interestingly this seems to be something the younger generation do consider more... 2 out of my 3 children say they will think very carefully about bringing children into the world partly because of the issues you raise OP.

The other thing that strikes me is that when it comes to much bigger families, i.e. 4 upwards, there's a very clear correlation with education and economic status. Poorer people will tend to have larger families. Less educated women tend to have larger families. Educate women and they will tend to have fewer children- probably for various reasons; they are more likely to have other things in their life providing enrichment and purpose rather than continuing to reproduce. Obviously exceptions to this (Jacob Rees Mogg and Sixtus!!) but the trend is true.
No doubt a few militant posters will now get their knickers in a twist and accuse me of something i haven't written, but I'm simply stating the facts

BasketOfDeplorables · 08/07/2017 09:08

shrunken The parts of the world where women have limited or no access to contraception, or their position in society constrains them, are the areas where population is growing.

Rape in marriage only became a crime in the 90s, so yes, I'm sure there are many women who were 'doing their duty'. There are plenty of young men who refuse to wear condoms, so I imagine this has always been the case.

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