FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR
All right, this tough economy, well, it’s causing many people to actually cut back in so many different ways. Even apparently on the number of children they have.
In a recent survey, 64 percent of women with household incomes below $75,000 said they can’t afford to have a baby right now. And some couples are choosing to stop at one for other reasons.
Social psychologist Susan Newman is the author of “Parenting an Only Child.” She joins us live from New York right now.
Hi. Good to see you, Susan.
SUSAN NEWMAN, SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGIST: Good to see you.
WHITFIELD: OK. So if the economy is one reason why people are choosing to have only one child, what might be the other reasons?
NEWMAN: The economy is one factor right now but this trend has been going on since the ’90s. We’re following Europe. And the reasons range from women are working, more women are working. They are feeling the stress of working.
The divorce rates are high so you have a baby and then you don’t have time to have another one. Also infertility is becoming increasingly a problem.
The reasons just keep escalating. And the trend is more and more predominant. We’re living now, according to many surveys, in a much more adult-centered lifestyle rather than a child-centered lifestyle.
So with women starting to have their babies at 35. They want to travel, they see the only child as more flexible. And those are just some of the reasons. I mean it just goes on and on.
NEWMAN: And —
WHITFIELD: That’s — that’s quite the host of reasons. So it really sounds like it’s more so because of circumstances than purely choice?
NEWMAN: Well, it’s choice, it’s circumstance. And it’s the fact that people are realizing you can be a parent and you can be a mother and you can be a father if you have one child.
And they’re looking at particularly at the stress factor. And the policies in this country — the work-life policies — are when you compare them with other countries, just terrible. For example, if you look at —
WHITFIELD: Really depressing.
NEWMAN: Yes. I’m sorry.
WHITFIELD: Kind of.
NEWMAN: I didn’t mean to depress you.
WHITFIELD: Informative, but depressing.
NEWMAN: If you look at Sweden, they give — they have a parental leave policy of 390 days. That’s 13 months that mother and father can divide up into hourly blocks. I mean consider what we have in this country. You have — you have three months, if you’re lucky.
And women want to keep their jobs. And right now many women need to keep their jobs.
NEWMAN: There are more women in the workforce than there are men right now.
WHITFIELD: And then if you break it down —
NEWMAN: We finally did it, women.
WHITFIELD: Yes. And if you break it down to the economics, which was the first thing out of the gate you’re talking about, it’s $280,000 to raise a child — and that’s based on some estimates — through high school.
So you focus all of this, you know, money on the one child, say for example, you don’t expand and have, you know, more kids there are a lot of myths, I guess, some would put it, associated with the only child that perhaps the only child will grow up to be a little less social or spoiled.
And you say, as the author of, you know, “Parenting an Only Child,” what to those things?
NEWMAN: I say they’re absolutely not true. They’re based on studies that were done in 1896 and have perpetuated for 100-plus years. And it’s like with any group, you get an image and a picture and myths die hard.
Only children are no more lonely than other children. Children today are socialized so early. You put — you know, you have your child in day care, in pre-K and then in school. When those studies were done, children lived in very isolated areas so they didn’t have — learn how to share and be empathetic.
And even the myth about children being independent versus dependent, and people have in their heads that only children are very clingy and dependent. And quite the opposite is true because only children want to be with their peers.
They’re outgoing, they want to be social. So this maladjusted —
WHITFIELD: So if this is a —
NEWMAN: Go ahead. Sorry.
WHITFIELD: Well, I’m wondering if this is a trend because of the many reasons that you talked about, you know, the working families, working mothers, et cetera, do you see that this is going to continue for some while? Or do you see that there’s likely to be — kind of a turn in things in terms of how people plan on their families?
NEWMAN: I don’t think people are going to go back to large families, even if the economy changes.
WHITFIELD: Wow. NEWMAN: Women are hard-core in their jobs. They’re not giving them up. And I don’t see it changing at all. I think this trend — we’re following Europe, you know, and Japan, for example, and European countries. That — we’re not at replacement level.
NEWMAN: They’re at 1.3 in Japan. And we’re — we’re at replacement level only because of immigration.
WHITFIELD: Interesting. Susan Newman, fascinating topic. “Parenting an Only Child” is the name of the book that you authored. Thanks for your time. Appreciate that.
NEWMAN: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: And definitely more informative than depressing.
WHITFIELD: How’s that?
NEWMAN: Definitely. Only-child families are fabulous. People just need to redefine family.
WHITFIELD: Right. OK. Thanks so much, Susan, appreciate that.