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The west (US specifically) seems to consider the "decision" to have children a private matter, but a public decision. In what cultures may this be seen differently? When did this shift occur?

The west (US specifically) seems to consider the "decision" to have children a private matter, but a public decision. In what cultures may this be seen differently? When did this shift occur?

Cooperativism62

I don't have a direct answer to your question, partially because I find your wording a tad confusing, but I do have something that may be of interest. One big change that has happened in the last 100 years or so is the shift from an agrarian to an industrial society. In agricultural economies, children are seen as an asset and a form of wealth. They are your workers, your retirement plan, your insurance, all in one on the family farm. Today, many westerners in my generation view children as a cost and a liability and in spite of being part of the richest nations on the planet, frequently state they can't afford to have kids. Its a bit of a paradox to think that poorer regions of the world can afford to have children whereas wealthy countries can't. On top of this, the strong emphasis on personal choice and hedonism or careerism often means that child-rearing is considered a hobby or a chore, and not an obligation. Westerners weigh having children with having fun hobbies or pursuing career goals, and its its not work or leisure then they lump the activity into "chores". The overall decline in birthrates are unsuprising. So one of the answers to your question is the shift in production from agriculture to industry and services. Instead of learning on the family farm, children spend most of their days in school for 12 years and then leave the family household. After that its off to the factory or a law firm possibly in another state or country. So production and proximity both play important roles. edit: As a sidenote, I wouldn't lump the entire US together like you. In the rural, religious South, having children is far less a personal decision than in New York or California or most of Europe, abortion laws aside. Even European countries were abortion is illegal may view child rearing as a personal responsibility than collective due to having a high urban population share.


IfNotBackAvengeDeath

>I find your wording a tad confusing I'd also like to have OP clarify what they mean... it's not clear at all what phenomenon he/she is contrasting with what other phenomenon. How are they "left isolated" in child rearing and education? Like, that's all people with kids talk about, even with their non-kid friends (which drives them crazy). And how are they "limited" to making decisions for themselves? With some notable and significant exceptions (abortion in Texas), what decisions are restricted or limited in making? And what does "the 'decision' to have children a private matter, but a public decision" even mean? What is the function of the quotes around the first "decision" that apparently changes its meaning?


J0ofez

> Today, many westerners in my generation view children as a cost and a liability and in spite of being part of the richest nations on the planet, frequently state they can't afford to have kids. Its a bit of a paradox to think that poorer regions of the world can afford to have children whereas wealthy countries can't. Income inequality in the US is skyrocketing; despite the US being a 'wealthy nation' most of this wealth is concentrated in the wealthiest few percent


Cooperativism62

To add to my past statement, Sweden is a more egalitarian country that's equally developed. Sweden also has low birth rates. It's not an equality issue, it's a rural/urban distinction. Rural poor have more kids than urban poor.


persnickety_pirate

>Rural poor have more kids than urban poor. This tends to be the case but with obvious (or not?) variability. A rural family on a farm could use the help of children, theoretically yielding a more bountiful harvest, or just to ease the workload per worker. This we understand. Children don't work in urban settings (there are some family-owned restaurants, stores that make the exception) but the social pressures toward financial stability and affluence outweigh the social pressures against birth control. Besides, no one is arguing against child labor laws. But this is more specific to white populations. Urban minorities in the US tend to follow current socio-cultural and spiritual pressures and norms within their communities. Birth control (not even mentioning abortion) is seldom supported, and even less talked about in any positive manner, limiting the access it has to personal decision-making. Apologies for my awkward wording... I tend to do that when I'm not 100% focused.


Cooperativism62

All I got from your comment is that in the first half you agree with me, but in the second half you want to debate something, perhaps the importance of religion. My question is, if you came here with a preconcieved answer, why did you bother posting the question?


persnickety_pirate

I'm more curious to know specifics to how, when, why this cultural shift ocurred. It seems pretty obvious that the Industrial, Agricultural (industry evolving) ages played key roles... But what shifts in our psychology, cultural structures, actually allowed and encouraged these shifts?


Cooperativism62

You would think its obvious but there are plenty of people, even world leaders that basically say "You Africans are poor because you have too many kids" and don't understand the difference in how each economy functions. As for the shifts "in our psychology and cultural structures" that allowed for the industrial revolution (and switch to service economies), well that would be better served perhaps by a sociology reddit. There is a lot of debate about "the great transformation" as Poliyani calls it. Marxists and Anarchists often point to the enclosure movement and private property. Weber talks about "the protestant work ethic". Joseph Henrich recently put out a book that hypothesizes the Catholic ban on cousin marriage and polygamy did it. I've even heard from historians that after many decades of debate, the verdict for the last decade has been there was no "Industrial Revolution" at all and it was quite a gradual amount of invention. So you could have that question rattling in your head for a long time, but there's lots to read on it if you're willing to make it a hobby. I'm sort of developing my own approach which is that its been a long, gradual change with the intention of making people more predictable. Its inspired by Albert Hirschman's "Passions and Interests" but also Poliyani's quote "laissez faire was planned". We don't know much about cooperation, but we do know people will defend themselves. Thus making a self-interested individualistic society leads to more predictive outcomes as long as you apply enough pressure to make people think about themselves.


Cooperativism62

Various African countries also have a high Gini coefficient, but also maintain large families. I don't think inequality is an important factor considering the poverty in two are associated with very different birth rates. Even wealthy American families have few children


persnickety_pirate

Poverty may not be a strict financial metric. To be wealthy in community support is frequently parallel to financial poverty... Or vice versa, however you want to look at it. Increased birth rates are seen among these groups. To be poor in both would (or perhaps ought to) lead to lower birth rates, as the physical, mental and financial selves aren't prepared to raise a child.


Cooperativism62

Poverty here is being used as a strict financial metric as there really isn't any other common denominator besides perhaps calories with which to define it. Even calory intake alone is a poor measure of nutritional health. So if poverty isn't a financial metric you better have a better definition to bring to the conversation or don't use the word at all. A subsistance farmer can live on $2 a day or $0 a day in rural Africa while having a few kids. A homeless man in LA likely isn't raising anyone. You shoudnt redifine words to confirm presupposed notions of how the poor "ought" to act. That's a very big scientific and ethnocentric mistake. If you redefine poverty in relation to number of children then you'll easily find that the world and development is upside down...you'll also get into Malthusian economic problems.


PurpleHooloovoo

No is talking about religion in these answers, so I'd like to contribute/ask: there is often a correlation in number of children and religion, usually as part of a mandate/strong recommendation/expectation from the church. In the US, you'll usually find families with 5+ children to be from a more fundamentalist religious background: LDS, many Catholics, sects of other churches. That also tends to track with urban/rural divides as well as class (for many reasons) but I am curious if there is more to be said about how religion impacts family planning decisions and perceptions.


Cooperativism62

While my comment on rural/urban life is important, I really hope that someone with better knowlege and qualifications give a history of family planning and abortion and/or infanticide. That is something deeply important to the discussion and missing. I may have answered OP, but the way they word it presumes that family planning (contraception) and so on didn't exist until recent times, which is untrue. People have been pulling out, using condoms, doing abortions, and killing babies for thousands of years. None of that is new.


persnickety_pirate

That's fair. Clarity. I believe that the "discussion" on childbearing and rearing, etc was much more common, but seldom overt. I doubt that having and raising children would have been a sit-down conversation like we may think of it in the west today. Rather seen as an intimate, yet open, understanding within the social framework. In more rural settings we still see, even in the west, shared responsibility across generations and family units. People care for kids before they have them, understanding that the favor will be returned when they become parents themselves. But it's not seen as a favor, as the act of helping isn't seen as a chore. It's simple because it requires less active attention. And I believe you said in another comment, the children aren't being so closely monitored... they contribute to society, at the level of their capability, learning to better engage as their abilities and autonomy increase.


Veryaburneraccount

This is not an anthropological question. You just have a specific political agenda and are seeking "evidence" to support it. I also find it amazing that not once during this discussion have women/people with uteruses come up. "Society" and "individuals" don't choose to have children; people with uteruses do. On that note, higher levels of education for people assigned female at birth are correlated with lower birth rates.


Veryaburneraccount

Also, do you have any evidence for this statement: "In more rural settings we still see, even in the west, shared responsibility across generations and family units." It's incredibly general. Furthermore, it doesn't account for differing definitions of family across ethnic groups. For instance, white people in any setting, rural or urban, tend to see the nuclear family as the primary family structure.


ponk_konk

Not to mention how cost (class) prohibitive it's become to 1) obtain contraception for many people and 2) simply follow through with a pregnancy. If a government is going to create laws that control women's bodies (for fuck's sake, get your fingers out of our pies!) they should be expected to remove all taxes/make free feminine products, contraception, child birth, and should put in place much improved laws regarding paternal leave. Which should already be in place as it is. We're asking for the bare minimum. If a government expects you to take care of your children independently, they should leave all decisions related to the individual. I apologize for not being able to answer, but I appreciate the post.


persnickety_pirate

I think all lawmakers who vote against abortion ought to play a role in the foster care system. [Adopt](https://www.adoptuskids.org/) a kid. [Foster](https://www.safy.org/foster-care-and-caregivers/) a kid. At the very least, become a [respite caregiver.](https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/preventing/prevention-programs/respite/respite-care-for-resource-families/)