By Karen Malone Wright
We all know stuff that we believe “everybody knows”, but if you want people to put their money behind it, you better have proof. Perhaps everyone in your city “knows” that there are more unemployed teens than before. An academic research study, survey, or other official measure, will prove one way or the other what is true.
I learned this obvious lesson while working for a grant making foundation years back. I stumbled over the language of philanthropy (“convening” as a noun, for example) but quickly understood that their funding supported strategies that were proven to be effective. Not all of those silly-sounding studies we laugh at are actually funny.
With that kind of knowledge in the back of my head, I gave a big sigh while reading web headlines like these in early 2017:
“Adults Who Choose Not to Have Children Inspire Moral Outrage in Study Participants” (UPI)
“Judgment of Child-Free People Is Real–And Now There’s Science to Prove It” (Bustle)
“The Choice to Be Child-Free Sparks ‘Moral Outrage'” (International Business Times UK)
Here’s a case of “everybody knows” scientifically proven to be true. Childfree NotMoms regularly experience facial gestures and shady comments that communicate a clear message, “You are beneath me because you chose a different path. You actually chose not to be a parent. Go sit down somewhere.”
Published in the March 2017 edition of a peer-reviewed journal called Sex Roles, the groundbreaking study was produced by Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. And yes, a woman is behind it. Here’s how associate professor of psychology Leslie Ashburn-Nardo summed up her results:
“What’s remarkable about our findings is the moral outrage participants reported feeling toward a stranger who decided to not have children. Our data suggests that not having children is seen not only as atypical, or surprising, but also as morally wrong.
“Having children is obviously a more typical decision, so perhaps people are rightfully surprised when they meet a married adult who, with their partner, has chosen to not have children. That they are also outraged by child-free people is what’s novel about this work.”
OK. One more time?
“Not having children is seen not only as atypical, or surprising, but also as MORALLY WRONG.”
Oh hell no. How’s that make you feel, childfree NotMoms? Feel like there’s a scarlet C on your chest?
In a gross understatement, the University’s press release concludes, “Given that more and more people in the U.S. are choosing to not have children, this work has far-reaching implications.”
Ms. Ashburn-Nardo believes her work provides the first known empirical evidence that parenthood is seen as a moral imperative. That’s why it’s “groundbreaking. In that vision, we are each here to procreate. The End.
Apparently, women and men who are childless by chance through no “fault” of their own, unlike those heathen By Choice People, get a pass. But I gotta say, if people are “outraged” that a person would decide against parenthood, isn’t the flip side to openly express pity for those would would but can’t? Ugh.
The links are here if you want to get granular with the study, but the good news for the childfree-by-choice is that Ms. Ashburn-Nardo says she’s still on the case:
“Other research has linked moral outrage to discrimination and interpersonal mistreatment. It’s possible that, to the extent they evoke moral outrage, voluntarily child-free people suffer similar consequences, such as in the workplace or in health care. Exploring such outcomes for this demographic is the next step in my research.”
It may take a while, and maybe not that long at all for this type of research to be applied to human resources policies, discrimination suits, maybe even in divorce cases. On a personal level, it we KNOW that people are outraged by reproductive choice, logically there’s bounce-back on the parents of childfree adults. What did they do wrong?
Congrats to Ms. Ashburn-Nardo. This is a study that matters.