“What are really the reasons behind why people want children?” Why do people want children? This question may seem a bit trivial, but when you take into affect the millions of people that have children each day the question quickly takes on a new light. This is not just merely a personal question that affects only a few individuals, it is much larger than that because it affects and dictates the whole human population. This issue clearly becomes more important when this is taken into account. The question of why people want children is well exemplified in Bernard R. Berelsons essay “The Value Of Children: A Taxonomical Essay.” Berelson examines all the major reasons that people would want to have children one-by-one. Berelson opens with the first reason of biological.
He asks questions like, “do people innately want children for some built-in reason of physiology? Is there anything to maternal instinct, or parental instinct? Or is biology satisfied with the sex instinct as the way to assure continuity”(220)? Berelson tries to answer these questions by comparing babies to adults and also the reaction that adults have to babies. Berelson states the fact that babies look absolutely different from adults. They have big heads, large foreheads, eyes almost in the center of their head because of their large forehead, and they are very fat compared to adults. This is why Berelson believes that this “babyishness” triggers something inside of man that causes him to want to protect and care for the baby. When social traditions dictate the number of children a family has this can be seen as the cultural influence of having children.
In most cultures even the number of children one has is determined by the society. These social normalities can determine whether or not a family has a very small amount to a very large amount. Having children in order to gain power is the political side to having children. Berelson states all the political reasons very well when he says, “There are political units for whom collective childbearing is or has been explicitly encouraged as a demographic duty-countries concerned with national glory or competitive political position; governments concerned with the supply of workers and soldiers; churches concerned with propagation of the faith or their relative strength; ethnic minorities concerned with their political power; linguistic communities competing for position; clans and tribes concerned over their relative status within a larger setting”(221). This statement that Berelson makes clearly emphasizes all the political reasons for having children. Of course, how can one forget that there are economic reasons for having or not having children? Whether you have children or do not it is obvious that they are definitely a very financial decision. In societies like ours, as Berelson points out, having children is a very costly endeavor. Berelson speaks the truth about what parents are really thinking before having a child when he says, “before conception: another child or a trip to Europe; a birth deferred in favor of a new car, the nth child requiring more expenditure on education or housing”(222).
These thoughts run through just about all perspective parents before the decision is made to have children. There is good side to the economic reason for the poor. The poor can use their children to work, hunt, help take care of the home and other children, in some societies if one is a female she can get a dowry for an arranged marriage, and finally for support when the parents grow older and need it. Though as Berelson states, “both societies and families tend to choose standard of living over number of children when the opportunity presents itself”(222). There is always the reason of family or as Berelson puts it “Familial”.
The reasons of familial are to extend a family name, to try to please the ancestors, and to enable proper religious ceremonies for some cultures. The family bond can also be used to help or hold a marriage together. A family gives one a sense of security, not only the child but also the parents. Berelson makes a sometimes less than obvious statement when he says, “Children need family, but the family seems also to need children”(223). The last subject that Berelson goes into is the personal reasons for wanting children.
This has a variety of sub-topics under it: personal power, personal competence, personal status, personal extension, personal experience, and personal pleasure. Berelson believes that some people may what children so that they may have personal power or an authority over a person like non-other they will ever exercise like throughout their life. He also points out that raising children demonstrates personal competence. In this case no mater what education or social ranking a person has they can prove themselves to be a competent adult by raising children. Also, one can have very many children which in some cases, like the poor, children are a type of wealth. Even though the rich may be blessed with money the poor can be blessed with the wealth of children.
Others may have children as a personal extension of themselves or a way to achieve immortality and sometimes parents try to do what they couldnt through their children. Berelson acknowledges the fact that some people simple do it for personal experience. This challenge to raise a child can be one of the most rewarding experiences in ones life. Berelson puts it best when he says, “Last, but one hopes not least, in the list of reasons for wanting children is the altruistic pleasure of having them, caring for them, watching them grow, shaping them, being with them, enjoying them”(225). This reason Berelson has just described is the one reason that all most all people would agree why people would want children, love.
The question of why people want children is clearly illustrated in Bernard R. Berelsons essay “The Value Of Children: A Taxonomical Essay.” Berelsons essay shows the reader a lot of good reasons why people would want children. Some of these reasons may be true some may not. It all depends on the person, society, religion, and even the place that one lives. In my personal experience a lot of what Berelson says is true.
I believe however, that all of the personal reasons are more influential than all the other categories that Berelson presents. Also, among all the personal reasons I would have to say that personal extension, personal experience, and personal pleasure are in my view the things that most influence one to have children. When you take into account all the topics of this whole essay Berelson has really made you think in detail about why you yourself had child(ren) or why you would want to. I think this was really Berelsons objective and I think he accomplishes it very well.