Why people choose to procreate is not a question many have stopped and thought about. Growing up, we are instilled with the thought that we need to go get an education, get a job, get married and have children. However, we never really thought about as to why we think it is so imperative to have children. Bernard R. Berelsons’ essay, The Value of Children: A Taxonomical Essay, assesses the question as to why people have children. Berelson proposes several reasons why people have children in his taxonomical essay, however the reasons one might see most prevalent are cultural and personal.
The first cultural motive Americans want children is because growing up we have the idea drilled into our head that we must go get an education, get a job, get married and procreate. This is what is expected of you. This is the norm. Berlson states, ‘People want children because it is ‘the thing’ to do’ (250-251). This statement especially ties in when considering the media, peers, or even when people are pressured by their parents to have children. To live a life without procreating is looked at as odd and dismal.
The American Dream is also another cultural motive many Americans choose to have children. America is the land of the free and the land of opportunity. People migrate from all over the world to America to try and obtain their piece of the American Dream. America is a widely diverse country compromised of all sorts of races; however most come to America with one aim in mind: provide themselves, their families, and future generations with a better life. It is rational to conclude that many Americans choose to have children so they can continue to keep the American Dream alive. Berelson states, ‘Everywhere social traditions and social pressures enforce a certain conformity for child bearing patterns’ (250). There is a pressure passed down in our society to prolong the American Dream simply because it is our social tradition.
The first few motives Berelson listed for having offspring had been solely on how they are advantageous to the parent. However, there are added direct personal benefits to having children too. The strongest personal calling to have children is personal status. ‘Parenthood confers status. It is an accomplishment open to all or virtually all and realized by the overwhelming majority of adult human kind’ (Berelson 254). When finally entering parenthood, it seems that something which felt so distant, yet inevitable, finally came into actuality. One feels as if they have just accomplished a huge feat that they were working their whole life towards. No matter what a person’s ethnic or economic background maybe, having a child proves your competency as an adult. Raising a child is rewarding. Raising a child adequately shows that you are able to provide for another human being. Having a child confers your status as a capable adult.
One may have thought of the question ‘Why do people have children’? as trivial. However, after reading Berelson’s essay, a person could have found himself or herself deep in thought on a simple question that he or she may have never thought about twice before. The reasons why people choose to procreate could be economical, biological, cultural, political, familial and personal. Our society’s social ideology that we must all have an education, get a job, get married and have children leaves people yearning to conform to this ideology. We find that our culture and personal motives have a huge impact on our child bearing patterns as a society. We are willing to bring another human life onto this planet simply because we feel that it is what is expected of us.
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