“Should I have Children?” in the Face of Climate Crisis

November 23, 2020

Genuinely creepy commercial above points to a real issue. New study of young people’s anxiety about the future.

Climatic Change – November 2020 – Eco-reproductive concerns in the age of climate change:

Media reports and public polls suggest that young people in many countries are increasingly factoring climate change into their reproductive choices, but empirical evidence about this phenomenon is lacking. This article reviews the scholarship on this subject and discusses the results of the first empirical study focused on it, a quantitative and qualitative survey of 607 US-Americans between the ages of 27 and 45. While 59.8% of respondents reported being “very” or “extremely concerned” about the carbon footprint of procreation, 96.5% of respondents were “very” or “extremely concerned” about the well-being of their existing, expected, or hypothetical children in a climate-changed world. This was largely due to an overwhelmingly negative expectation of the future with climate change. Younger respondents were more concerned about the climate impacts their children would experience than older respondents, and there was no statistically significant difference between the eco-reproductive concerns of male and female respondents. These and other results are situated within scholarship about growing climate concern in the USA, the concept of the carbon footprint, the carbon footprint of procreation, individual actions in response to climate change, temporal perceptions of climate change, and expectations about the future in the USA. Potential implications for future research in environmental psychology, environmental sociology, the sociology of reproduction, demography, and climate mitigation are discussed.


More than half of child and adolescent psychiatrists in England are seeing patients distressed about the state of the environment, a survey has revealed.

The findings showed that the climate crisis is taking a toll on the mental health of young people. The levels of eco-anxiety observed were notably higher among the young than the general population, according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, which has just launched its first resources to help children and their parents cope with fears about environmental breakdown.

In a survey of its members working in the NHS in early September, the organisation asked: “In the last year have you seen patients who are distressed about environmental and ecological issues?”

Among child and adolescent psychiatrists in England, 57.3% (47 of the 82 who replied) answered in the affirmative. This was almost 10 points higher than among respondents dealing with all age groups, at 47.9% (264 of 551).

The sample size is small and will need to be verified by more detailed research, but practitioners in the field said the findings were in line with their experience.

Bernadka Dubicka, chair of the Faculty of Child and Adolescent Psychiatryat the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said younger generations are growing up with a constant backdrop of understandable fear and worry about the future of the planet. Along with pressures from social media, doubts about misinformation and now Covid-19 and the economic crisis, she said it was taking a toll on the mental health of the young.

“In recent years, a whole new set of issues has emerged. These are all things young people have to contend with, things that affect their futures,” said the psychiatrist, who has worked in the field for 25 years.


3 Responses to ““Should I have Children?” in the Face of Climate Crisis”

  1. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    I suspect the research (607 “US-Americans”) is picking up a disproportionate amount of well-educated people and those children whose families can afford psychologists or therapy.

    The poor and culturally oppressed have had babies despite war, poverty and famine; they don’t think of it as a “choice”, but as intrinsic to their personal worth.

    • doldrom Says:

      Could be but I don’t think you should belittle the point. I saw my children grow up with huge concerns about species going extinct, watching the news (for children) broach topics which went way beyond current incidents, and growing up in a society where there is no work at hand waiting for them [It’s hard to find chores that pay for children, unlike my youth, where there was plenty of that kind of work, putting up screens, store windows, gardening, shoveling driveways, shopping & cleaning for old people, baby-sitting], not as children, but not as young adults either.

      Apart from thinking about climate change and actually having babies, the future is not beckoning to young people to pick up the slack, and this has a profound influence on their minds and spirit. There is little in the way of community roles to help them shape the course of their lives and settle into the eternal cycle of human existence — the landscape has shifted fundamentally in many way.

      There just isn’t much of “and they all lived happily”. It’s not only the apocalyptic background of nuclear war, species extinction, climate change. Nobody now thinks of having your love, settling down, and having children is a “life”.

  2. redskylite Says:

    I would hope that all people (including politicians) involved in population’s well being and especially in children mental health would have taken note of lessons from the cold war and the nuclear annihilation threat. I remember couples were deciding not to start a family in the sixties and seventies because of the threat and it certainly weighed heavily on children’s minds. We have already experienced it and should have learnt from it. Sad if we have not.

    I would say that “Climate Change” is far worse than the nuclear threat, as it is global and happening and it is inevitable.

    Have we not learnt, have we really dumb-ed down ?

    The answer must be no and we must take all the action we can and take care of our kids. As Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev understood back in our last century. Surely we learned from that.

    “The agreement, signed in December 1987 by U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, limited both nations from fielding both “short range” and “intermediate range” land-based ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and missile launchers that could be used to house either nuclear or conventional payloads.


    “It is essential that young people not be left alone with their fears. It is essential that they make contact with others who are willing to hear them and to share their concerns,” wrote Harvard professor Dr. William R. Beardslee in 1986.


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