A new research study suggests men are almost as likely as women to want children, and they feel more isolated, depressed, angry and sad than women if they don’t have them.
This finding, presented at the British Sociological Association annual conference, challenges many preconceived notions regarding marriage, parenting and family life.
Investigators discovered that cultural and family expectations were among the main influences on men’s wish to have children.
The suggestion that men are more distraught when a couple cannot have children is significant.
For the study, Robin Hadley of Keele University surveyed 27 men and 81 women who were not parents. He asked them if they wanted to have children and why.
Hadley found that 59 percent of men and 63 percent of women said they wanted children.
Of the men who wanted children:
- 50 percent had experienced isolation because they did not have any children, compared with 27 percent women;
- 38 percent had experienced depression because they did not have any children, compared with 27 percen women;
- 25 percent had experienced anger because they did not have any children, compared with 18% women;
- 56 percent had experienced sadness because they did not have any children, compared with 43 percent women;
- 56 percent experienced jealousy of those with children, compared with 47 percent of women;
- 69 percent had experienced yearning for a child, compared with 71 percent women;
- No men had experienced guilt because they did not have any children, compared with 16 percent women.
From the investigation, Hadley found that the influences on men and women who wanted to have children varied.
Childless women were more likely to cite personal desire and biological urge as major influences, compared to men. Men were more likely to cite cultural, societal and family pressures than were women.
“There is very little research on the desire for fatherhood among men,” Hadley said. “My work shows that there was a similar level of desire for parenthood among childless men and women in the survey, and that men had higher levels of anger, depression, sadness, jealousy and isolation than women and similar levels of yearning.
“This challenges the common idea that women are much more likely to want to have children than men, and that they consistently experience a range of negative emotions more deeply than men if they don’t have children.”
Hadley conducted the survey using an online questionnaire among people aged 20 to 66, with an average age of 41. Just over 80 percent of participants were white British, 69 percent had degrees, 69 percent worked full time and 90 percent were heterosexual. Hadley cautions that this is a qualitative study rather than a quantitative statistical representation of British society.
Hadley also surveyed another 125 men and women who already had children to find out whether they wanted more. He found that 59 percent of women wanted children and 55 percent of men.
The women who wanted more children, when they thought about not being able to have them, had higher levels of anger, depression, guilt, isolation, sadness and yearning than men.
In research carried out since his study, Hadley has interviewed involuntary childless men. Among them were Russell, 55, who told him: “I’m 55, the light’s been getting dimmer and dimmer and dimmer of me ever being a father, to the point now where it’s not going to happen.”
George, 60, said: “If you don’t have children or grandchildren then that dimension of your life is missing.”
Martin, 70, told him: “If I’d had children, I’d have been a proper grandfather. Maybe even a great grandfather by now.”
Source: University of Keele