Thursday, September 04, 2014

So much you have given love that I would give you back again and again

Here's a crass comic that captures what I had assumed to be a fairly widely held sentiment. What is in it for a member of the Selfie generation to inflict upon himself a life-changing imposition like becoming responsible for another well-being of another human being? It's such a drag:

There is a silent majority here, however, similar to the one that exists when it comes to sex roles in a nuclear family (even liberal women find the male breadwinner-female caregiver arrangement preferable to any other). Extending back to 1988, the GSS has periodically queried participants on whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement "watching children grow up is life's greatest joy". A staggering 85.9% agree/strongly agree, 10.5% are neutral, and 3.6% disagree/strongly disagree.

Human biology is a difficult thing to overcome. We're a pair-bonding species, distinct from our closest living ancestors by, among other things, our extraordinarily high level of paternal investment.

Parenthetically, this apparent overwhelming majority isn't just an artifice of the question, either. The module also asked about marriage. The same set of respondents were asked whether married people are generally happier than unmarried people are. Though self-assessment surveys consistently show that they are, it's not obvious to the general population. Only 45.3% agreed/strongly agreed, 32.1% were neutral, and 20.6% disagreed/strongly disagreed. There is far less consensus on this other conventional part of middle class American life than there is when it comes to the joy derived from raising children.

Back to said putative joy children bring, there are slight racial differences that generally parallel real world fertility patterns (if not actual parental behaviors). The percentages of respondents, by race, who agree/strongly agree with the statement:


Not surprisingly, women experience a bit more pleasure from nurturing and its consequences than men do:


Maybe it's Idiocracy unfolding, maybe it's that agile minds just have more routes open to them in their quests for personal joy, or maybe it's a little of both--those of more modest intelligence* say they derive more pleasure for child-rearing than sharper folks do:

Real Dumbs93.1
Pretty Dumbs91.8
Pretty Smarts81.4
Really Smarts72.0

Finally, as the termagant in the aforementioned cartoon illustrates, those who have children of their own experience the joy firsthand and are thus more impressed by it, or, alternatively, are more likely to morally self-justify previously made decisions by claiming as much:


Finally, to elicit emotions other than joy in feminists, a little empirical reality--garlic to those soul-sucking vampire fuglies. The percentages of women by survey year who agree/strongly agree with the statement that "being a housewife is just as fulfilling as working for pay":

Instead of feeling increasingly liberated, American women, if anything, appear to be exhibiting progressively (regressively?) more affinity for domestic bondage as time goes on.

GSS variables used: KIDJOY(1-2)(3)(4-5), RACECEN1(1)(2)(4-10)(15-16), HOUSEWRK, SEX(1)(2), CHILDS(0)(1-8), WORDSUM(0-3)(4-5)(6)(7-8)(9-10), YEAR

* Respondents are broken up into five categories that roughly approximate a normal distribution; Really Smarts (wordsum score of 9-10, comprising 13% of the population), Pretty Smarts (7-8, 26%), Normals (6, 22%), Pretty Dumbs (4-5, 27%), and Real Dumbs (0-3, 12%)


Tim Wheaton said...

You think it's selfish not to add more to the burgeoning world population?

Fine, I'll find some skanks, bash out 10, leave them to the government to raise and they can fight yours for resources.

Halchak said...

Demographics are destiny. Only an economist would assume a person is a person is a person. Or Tim Wheaton apparently.

sclop said...

I remember reading a study that said people who have children are no happier than those who don't. However, it also said that those who married ARE happier than those who don't.

As you mentioned, I think a significant factor in the high rates of satisfaction supposedly derived from having children is self-justification. Few people would admit that they regret having children, but I suspect that many of them, given the chance to do it over, would choose not to go through with it.

Audacious Epigone said...


You think selflessness is behind sub-replacement fertility in the West?


Only an economist and everyone else who subscribes (at least publicly) to the religious tenets of the Cathedral's faith--and that's a lot of people with a lot of power.


Whew, I'd suspect it would be just the opposite--once you've had a kid, it's impossible to disremember him. Saying that if able to do it all over again, you wouldn't have had him becomes tantamount to banishing him from existence.

Anonymous said...

The idea that people would elect not to have kids due to thinking it selfish is an example of an extreme selective disadvantage and a self correcting problem.

bleach said...

Tim Wheaton, no one wants you, personally, to have kids--including yourself, apparently. So fuck off.

I have always felt that women of average (white) IQ are better wives and mothers than high IQ women and the data here explains part of the reason. High IQ people never have kind eyes, warm smiles, a passion for nurturing. This is ok for a father, but a mother without a nurturing temperament is a guaranteed failure. A 130 IQ woman thrives on her career and her SSRIs.

Audacious Epigone said...


It might be seen as an appeal to nature, but intelligence/educational attainment are more positively correlated with male reproduction than they are with female reproduction, at least in the US. Heartiste calls it the boss-secretary sexual strategy and asserts it will renew Western vitality. Here's to hoping you're both correct.

Jokah Macpherson said...

To me the message isn't so much to buy condoms as it is to discipline your fucking kid. Or at least put him in a preschool where he'll learn other kids won't stand for his whining.

Even if you skip the kid and live the DINK lifestyle, the dog you think is so special will get on other people's nerves if you don't punish it when it acts out.

Jokah Macpherson said...

Sort of on topic - Just got back from the Macpherson family reunion this weekend. We are kind of a Darwinian dead-end. From 4 kids, my grandparents only wound up with 5 biological grandkids and 3 great-grandkids (all from the one female grandchild that married a minister). I don't mean to speak ill about my family since they're very interesting people (and technically I'm part of the problem) but there's only so much geriatric talk I can take; we need new blood.

Jokah Macpherson said...


I kind of agree about the cutoff point for marginal utility of IQ in a wife/mother is around one standard deviation above the mean. Although it's true that choosing a smart spouse is the single best thing you can to do maximize the chances for smart children, almost no one thinks in these Spock-like terms when the feelings of love kick in. At any rate, I've found little or no correlation between intelligence and how attractive I find a girl beyond a certain threshold.

Jokah Macpherson said...

One last thing and I'll shut up: just wanted to point out that the trend on the GSS "kid importance" thing is upward since 1994, which was about the height of feminist power in the mainstream culture.

BehindTheLines said...

It's hard for a relationship to survive if the couple are significantly different in IQ (20 points is my best guess), so if you are a high IQ man, you pretty much have to marry a smart woman if you want a lasting, quality relationship.

Audacious Epigone said...


I both empathize and sympathize. My grandparents had 7 children between the 4 of them. Those 7 children (really 6 for TFR purposes, since otherwise my parents get double counted) had 14--slightly better than replacement. But of those 14, only one cousin and my two siblings are younger than I am, and we have a whopping 4 kids across the 14 of us.


I'd like to see that evaluated systematically. I suspect the girl smart/guy not combo faces more trouble than the guy smart/girl not combo does.

Anyway, the idea that your wife has to be your cognitive equal and share your interests feels like a modern invention to me (similar to the idea that your spouse should be your best friend, an absurd proposition that requires the realities of HBD to be chucked out the window; that's different than closest confidante, which is reasonable).

MC said...

"the boss-secretary sexual strategy"

Or in my case, the lawyer-schoolteacher sexual strategy.

I'm definitely smarter than the wife (she's probably about a 120-25 IQ, I'm about 145), and she knows it, and it works great. Hard to imagine the reverse working out well.