Reading an Australian childless by choice article I ran across something for the first time. Sexologist and associate professor of health psychology at James Cook University, Dr Frances Quirk thinks a reason many of us don’t feel our raison d’être is to pump out rounds of “mini-me’s” has to do with our hormones–“We’re equipped with a physiological arsenal of drives, urges, hormones and synapses that will us, continuously, to make babies. But just like someone can be born without perfect hearing or eyesight, or be good or poor at athletics or maths or drawing, some people are born with lower levels of certain hormones. In women, it’s thought low estrogen levels or high testosterone levels could result in a diminished to entirely eradicated desire to have babies.”

Mmm, at first blush, this idea sounds, well, quirky, Dr. Quirk. I need evidence…

I knew early in life I did not to have children, and my hormones are not high in testosterone and never have been. Estrogen, well these days is more topsy turvy but that is due to perimenopause! Until this phase began, there was nothing unusual about my estrogen levels. What about guys who don’t want kids–does this mean they have low levels of testosterone? High estrogen levels?

Now Dr. Quirk does also say it is not all about hormones.  A person’s upbringing, experiences or current situation “will generally play a part in controlling their desire to have, or not have, children.” Ok I buy into that.  Our life experiences greatly influence our attitudes, opinions, and desires in life. She explains that women with low estrogen mothers that made it clear to their daughters (who also have low levels of estrogen) they wished they had not become mothers could be the reason the daughter would end up not wanting kids.

Now, having interviewed hundreds of childfree, I have heard stories that involved mothers, but this sure isn’t what I’ve heard most. What I have heard most includes having babysat a lot when they were younger, and they learned early they did not like it.  I have also heard from many women that they had a woman in their life, whether it be an aunt, teacher, mentor, or even just a neighbor who had no children.

Knowing someone like this showed them as girls and young women that there was more than one way to do your life when you grew up.  With men, I have been surprised how often I hear what influenced them most is having seen a man they were close to, more often than not, their father, struggle financially to support the family.  As boys and young men they saw the financial stresses and pressures their fathers went through and decided they did not want that in their own adult life.

While I agree with Dr. Quirk that life experience plays a part, I am not sure I agree with her idea of life experience coupled with the hormone thing.  However, she does have a great take on why those who have or want children often “feel affronted by a woman who shuns reproduction. ‘People who have kids have made a commitment and like any commitment, it has costs,” she explains. ‘So they are psychologically motivated to challenge people who don’t do the same in order to justify that commitment.’ ”

Have you heard of the hormone idea? What life experience influenced you most to not want children?

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