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Thread: Human Nature and Having Children

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    Deus Meumque Jus
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    Human Nature and Having Children

    This might sound like a bit of an odd question but I'm curious what kind of answers will come from it.

    It seems intuitive that having and wanting children is, for the most part, an intrinsic part of our nature, but I wonder what makes it so. What exactly is it about our psychological make-up that causes people to want kids, even though they bear a huge energy cost in having them?

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    Member Peez's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    This might sound like a bit of an odd question but I'm curious what kind of answers will come from it.

    It seems intuitive that having and wanting children is, for the most part, an intrinsic part of our nature, but I wonder what makes it so. What exactly is it about our psychological make-up that causes people to want kids, even though they bear a huge energy cost in having them?
    Selection has favoured, over the past four billion years or so, organisms that reproduce themselves. This has resulted in the evolution of behaviours that tend to lead to reproduction.

    Peez

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    Quote Originally Posted by Peez View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    This might sound like a bit of an odd question but I'm curious what kind of answers will come from it.

    It seems intuitive that having and wanting children is, for the most part, an intrinsic part of our nature, but I wonder what makes it so. What exactly is it about our psychological make-up that causes people to want kids, even though they bear a huge energy cost in having them?
    Selection has favoured, over the past four billion years or so, organisms that reproduce themselves. This has resulted in the evolution of behaviours that tend to lead to reproduction.

    Peez
    Sure, that's a given, but doesn't answer the question. The question is which specific qualities evolved in us that cause the behavior?

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    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Peez View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    This might sound like a bit of an odd question but I'm curious what kind of answers will come from it.

    It seems intuitive that having and wanting children is, for the most part, an intrinsic part of our nature, but I wonder what makes it so. What exactly is it about our psychological make-up that causes people to want kids, even though they bear a huge energy cost in having them?
    Selection has favoured, over the past four billion years or so, organisms that reproduce themselves. This has resulted in the evolution of behaviours that tend to lead to reproduction.

    Peez
    Sure, that's a given, but doesn't answer the question. The question is which specific qualities evolved in us that cause the behavior?
    I'm not sure exactly the sort of answers you are looking for. But at least for some people, it manifests as a deep desire to have children. Have you heard the term "baby crazy" before? While it's mostly a bit of a joke - a woman hits 30 then all of the sudden they cannot stop talking about having kids, or wanting to stop and hold every baby they see. But it is quite common for young couples to marry in their late mid 20s with solid plans about how and when they are going to start a family, but then a couple of years into the marriage, the woman will abandon those plans and want to "wing it." At more extreme examples, you have straight up baby kidnapping, and even more pathological, fetal kidnapping.

    My own sister never had kids, she's much older than me, in her early 40s. But definitely, when she turned 30, she was pretty nuts about kids. It was actually quite sad, because she really really desired the whole traditional marriage with kids sort of deal, but she ended up dating one asshole who just wasted her time. I guess to be fair to him, he was apparently always clear about not wanting kids. I think she just held out hope that eventually he would. There were at least a couple of guys she could have married in her mid-to-late 20s. At that point, though, I don't think the urgency of her biological clock had caught up to her. That changed around her late 20s and early 30s, when she became pretty damn obsessed.

    I just turned 29 (and I'm a male). For the last year or so, I've noticed that seeing babies makes me a lot happier that it ever did. Before, it was more-or-less a mundane thing, but now, I want to hold them and find myself smiling uncontrollably when I make eye-contact with one.

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    Fair dinkum thinkum bilby's Avatar
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    The biggest driver by FAR is liking sex, which has only very recently become decoupled from having children - contraception is (in evolutionary terms) fairly new (perhaps as little as a few thousand years old), and effective contraception, under the control of women, is only about 50 years old.

    Doubtless there is some drive towards having children in many people, as well as and/or separate to the sex drive; But as the reproductive rates in places where women have ready access to safe and effective birth control demonstrate, it's not enough to inspire population growth, or even reproduction at the replacement rate of a touch more than two children per woman.

    So to answer the OP, the qualities that evolved in us that cause us to have kids are (in order of importance):

    1. Enjoying sex
    2. Enjoying more sex
    3. Really enjoying sex a lot
    4. Having a strong urge to have sex
    5. Enjoying sex
    6. Maternal bonding with newborns
    7. An ability to overcome the desire to kill the kids, despite discovering that the little shits have put a peanut butter sandwich in your new VCR
    8. Social disincentives for infanticide due to it's being looked down upon by those who don't own a peanut-flavoured VCR












    PS - Sorry about the VCR, Dad.

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    Nobody is driven to have children.

    The drive is to have sex.

    People having sex already can decide to have children.

    It is like getting a dog or a cat. Just something people know about and desire, not a drive.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bilby View Post
    The biggest driver by FAR is liking sex, which has only very recently become decoupled from having children - contraception is (in evolutionary terms) fairly new (perhaps as little as a few thousand years old), and effective contraception, under the control of women, is only about 50 years old.

    Doubtless there is some drive towards having children in many people, as well as and/or separate to the sex drive; But as the reproductive rates in places where women have ready access to safe and effective birth control demonstrate, it's not enough to inspire population growth, or even reproduction at the replacement rate of a touch more than two children per woman.

    So to answer the OP, the qualities that evolved in us that cause us to have kids are (in order of importance):

    1. Enjoying sex
    2. Enjoying more sex
    3. Really enjoying sex a lot
    4. Having a strong urge to have sex
    5. Enjoying sex
    6. Maternal bonding with newborns
    7. An ability to overcome the desire to kill the kids, despite discovering that the little shits have put a peanut butter sandwich in your new VCR
    8. Social disincentives for infanticide due to it's being looked down upon by those who don't own a peanut-flavoured VCR












    PS - Sorry about the VCR, Dad.
    Yea I agree, sex is an overwhelming component of it. Especially in pre-history when many tribes weren't even aware that sex and child-birth were connected. Often-times fertility rituals culturally evolved which led to the production of children.

    Now, I wonder what causes people who can see the connection between sex/child-birth and also control their reproductive rates to still have children. I wonder if it's as simple as a basic lack of awareness as in pre-historic times. For many people having children is just a normal thing to do and it doesn't dawn on them that they can not have children. I think this theory would account for the fact that many people have kids when they really don't have the financial means to support them.

    It's kind of just a.. social pressure/social norm thing, like how people don't realize how weird it is to sing the national anthem before sporting events. They just, on average, don't really consider the possibility that one can live a life and not get married or have kids. Whereas smarter people are more likely to make that realization and go without.

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    Quote Originally Posted by J842P View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Peez View Post
    Selection has favoured, over the past four billion years or so, organisms that reproduce themselves. This has resulted in the evolution of behaviours that tend to lead to reproduction.

    Peez
    Sure, that's a given, but doesn't answer the question. The question is which specific qualities evolved in us that cause the behavior?
    I'm not sure exactly the sort of answers you are looking for. But at least for some people, it manifests as a deep desire to have children. Have you heard the term "baby crazy" before? While it's mostly a bit of a joke - a woman hits 30 then all of the sudden they cannot stop talking about having kids, or wanting to stop and hold every baby they see. But it is quite common for young couples to marry in their late mid 20s with solid plans about how and when they are going to start a family, but then a couple of years into the marriage, the woman will abandon those plans and want to "wing it." At more extreme examples, you have straight up baby kidnapping, and even more pathological, fetal kidnapping.

    My own sister never had kids, she's much older than me, in her early 40s. But definitely, when she turned 30, she was pretty nuts about kids. It was actually quite sad, because she really really desired the whole traditional marriage with kids sort of deal, but she ended up dating one asshole who just wasted her time. I guess to be fair to him, he was apparently always clear about not wanting kids. I think she just held out hope that eventually he would. There were at least a couple of guys she could have married in her mid-to-late 20s. At that point, though, I don't think the urgency of her biological clock had caught up to her. That changed around her late 20s and early 30s, when she became pretty damn obsessed.

    I just turned 29 (and I'm a male). For the last year or so, I've noticed that seeing babies makes me a lot happier that it ever did. Before, it was more-or-less a mundane thing, but now, I want to hold them and find myself smiling uncontrollably when I make eye-contact with one.
    Yea an answer sort of like that. I wonder what is the specific psychological driver that causes the behavior you mention? There must be something inherent in our wiring.

    When I look at how my life has gone I also find myself leaning toward kids at the beginning of my thirties. To me, a big part of it now is that a) my fiance and I have the financial means to support them and still be well off and b) I once thought I could be happy without kids and now I'm not so sure. There was a time I thought I could read books, visit restaurants, watch sports, travel, and be endlessly fulfilled, then like running full speed into a brick wall I realized how empty all of these vacuous experiences were and I started really caring about my family. Now it feels like family is all I really have left. All of the friends I once had are drifting away, all of my hobbies are getting more tedious, and the only thing left that gives me any sense of joy is family. I wonder if that's a big part of it, and for people who have a lot of kids there is something like an inherent sense of joy and community in parents, relatives, kids and the like that they are more intuitively aware of than someone who thinks too much (like me).

    Put another way, I once heard my female cousin of the same age as me (31) say something along the lines of 'life would be pretty long without kids'. Eventually you just get to a point where all of the kind of meaningless stuff that once excited you, like alcohol, partying, travel, casual sex, is just not enough and you crave something more.

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    Veteran Member PyramidHead's Avatar
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    I don't know that there is any such thing as a biological drive to have offspring. Plenty of people have no interest in it. Everybody likes sex, though. That makes me suspect all of this baby-crazy stuff is cultural. Maybe quite ubiquitous culturally, but not necessarily biological.

    When I look at how my life has gone I also find myself leaning toward kids at the beginning of my thirties. To me, a big part of it now is that a) my fiance and I have the financial means to support them and still be well off and b) I once thought I could be happy without kids and now I'm not so sure. There was a time I thought I could read books, visit restaurants, watch sports, travel, and be endlessly fulfilled, then like running full speed into a brick wall I realized how empty all of these vacuous experiences were and I started really caring about my family. Now it feels like family is all I really have left.
    This stuff gets my goat real bad. These are all entirely self-serving justifications for starting a life that is not yours. Why do you think that you are entitled to configure matter in such a way that it becomes alive, and must then find its own way through life until death, just because you're bored with books and sports? This isn't taking up crocheting, it's putting another conscious being into the whole predicament of life, including the very crisis of fulfillment you are currently experiencing, which will probably lead to your offspring coming to the same conclusion and using the next generation as a way to gratify their disillusionment. It's like a pyramid scheme! If life runs out of entertainment by the time you hit your 30's even if you're comfortably well-off, maybe life isn't something to sign your unborn children up for without their say-so. The ups and downs of being a person in the world are not trivial, and nobody gets out of this alive. I wish you would put more thought into whether you are owed a certain degree of contentment, before you pass the buck by creating another locus of discontentment that will eventually deal with the same problem as you.

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    Quote Originally Posted by PyramidHead View Post
    I don't know that there is any such thing as a biological drive to have offspring. Plenty of people have no interest in it. Everybody likes sex, though. That makes me suspect all of this baby-crazy stuff is cultural. Maybe quite ubiquitous culturally, but not necessarily biological.

    When I look at how my life has gone I also find myself leaning toward kids at the beginning of my thirties. To me, a big part of it now is that a) my fiance and I have the financial means to support them and still be well off and b) I once thought I could be happy without kids and now I'm not so sure. There was a time I thought I could read books, visit restaurants, watch sports, travel, and be endlessly fulfilled, then like running full speed into a brick wall I realized how empty all of these vacuous experiences were and I started really caring about my family. Now it feels like family is all I really have left.
    This stuff gets my goat real bad. These are all entirely self-serving justifications for starting a life that is not yours. Why do you think that you are entitled to configure matter in such a way that it becomes alive, and must then find its own way through life until death, just because you're bored with books and sports? This isn't taking up crocheting, it's putting another conscious being into the whole predicament of life, including the very crisis of fulfillment you are currently experiencing, which will probably lead to your offspring coming to the same conclusion and using the next generation as a way to gratify their disillusionment. It's like a pyramid scheme! If life runs out of entertainment by the time you hit your 30's even if you're comfortably well-off, maybe life isn't something to sign your unborn children up for without their say-so. The ups and downs of being a person in the world are not trivial, and nobody gets out of this alive. I wish you would put more thought into whether you are owed a certain degree of contentment, before you pass the buck by creating another locus of discontentment that will eventually deal with the same problem as you.
    This is actually something I've thought about pretty thoroughly, and at one point even justified not having kids because of.

    These days I'm more inclined to believe that the positives out-weight the negatives, at least for the lives my own children would likely lead.

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