Ignorance isn’t the only thing stopping us from having babies.Relationships are also bad | Sonia Soda

S.The answers to big social challenges are often encapsulated in school curricula. Are you overweight? Have your school teach you healthy eating. Are too many people in debt? Financial literacy should be taught to all students. Worried about the dangers of social media? Digital literacy lessons for everyone.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with ensuring that children and young people are informed about how to keep themselves healthy and safe. There is a danger of kidding yourself that the answer is a little more educational.

The newest area to receive this treatment is fertility. last week, Leslie Regan – Government women’s health ambassador – called for an educational campaign to tell teenagers:tired ovariesThis was followed last year by a similar plea from Dorothy Byrne, president of the women-only University of Cambridge. He said he would continue and provide seminars on fertility treatments to students to encourage them. Don’t Leave Having Kids Too Late.

As a former president of the Royal College of Maternity, Reagan has knowledge of fertility science. But I’m not sure I should leave it up to doctors to suggest solutions to the declining fertility rate and the fact that women are having fewer children afterward (the average age of women having their first child is , are now over 30, compared to around 26). 50 years ago). I am of the view of Julia Chain, Chair of the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority, that a major driver of this is that “independent young women” do not understand that their fertility is time limited. does not support Women are reminded that their ovaries eventually almost atrophy from the moment they hit puberty. highly educated woman Most likely to give birth, I am keenly aware of the decline in fertility with age.

Some might argue that the choice of when to have children or not is a very personal one and should be well kept secret by the state. There is evidence that declining fertility rates in more affluent societies are partly the result of choice. Roles other than “mother” and “wife” – People are also not meeting their fertility aspirations.In 2011, the average number of children British women said they ideally wanted was 2.32, compared to 2.14 for men. , exceeded the so-called substitution rate of 2.1 required to avoid contraction. Aging societyBut now women give birth to an average of 1.58 children in England and Wales and just 1.29 in Scotland.

Some of that gap may be people changing their minds, but also the fact that people aren’t having as many children as they’d like. This is important because the decline poses long-term economic challenges that easily outweigh world wars, global financial crises, Brexit, and pandemics. In an aging society, fewer working-age people pay taxes and more pensioner benefits, health care, and long-term care fund for the elderly. We are spending more than twice as much as a percentage of GDP than we were 40 years ago. half of government spending Within 50 years.

The question of why people give birth to fewer children is therefore a much deeper analysis than the superficial assumption that women prioritize career over fertility because they are unaware of their biological clocks. (although at least Regan’s analysis recognizes that men actively participate in procreation). childbirth decisions). We should think more about the economics of raising children. Astronomical housing and childcare costs in the UK encourage people to actively put childcare on the back burner.And why we still live in a society where mothers, not fathers, almost always sacrifice career advancement. after having a baby.

We also need to consider that the majority of people who have children do so in their relationships.on behalf of A study of people born in 1970 The second most common reason for men and women not having children at age 42 (after not wanting to have children) was that they had not met the right person (almost a quarter of men 1, 1 in 5 women do not have children). More female graduates than male graduates (her one in three) said this was the reason they didn’t have children. Less than 3% said it was because they were focused on their career.

Much of the talk about fertility ignores this. Not everyone who wants children is in a stable relationship at the right time. This is a product of the fact that we not only bring different desires and values ​​into the mix, but also different levels of emotional capacity to form lasting relationships.

Psychologists who specialize in adult attachment theories, which describe and attempt to explain different approaches to romantic relationships, believe that just over half of the population has secure attachment. Less than a quarter are anxious attachments (craving intimacy but insecurity can destabilize the relationship) and a quarter are avoidant (fearing emotional intimacy). run away).

If so, it’s the many people in the dating pool who may want relationship stability but have trouble achieving it. Given that it’s getting scarce, and the continued proliferation of dating apps that give the illusion that the perfect match is just a few swipes away, fewer people realize they’re in the right relationship at the right time. It seems to be.. to have children.

It’s a good thing in the sense that you don’t want people to get into bad relationships. However, infertility education should be considered as support for nurturing healthy interpersonal relationships after adolescence, rather than fulfilling the desire to have children. Perhaps a much trickier proposition, but definitely better than pretending to change your lifelong behavior patterns is as simple as a few hours of classroom instruction or a TikTok informational campaign.

Sonia Sodha is a columnist for Observer. Ignorance isn’t the only thing stopping us from having babies.Relationships are also bad | Sonia Soda

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