Does childlessness drive people crazy?

From an evolutionary perspective, childlessness is as bad as death: either way, your genes die with you. (Unless you’re a bee or ant, which you’re not.) Quite obviously, you are descended from people who successfully reproduced, not from the millions of creatures throughout Earth’s history who didn’t. Adaptations that led to your ancestors reproducing got passed down to you, while adaptations that failed to make your ancestors reproduce didn’t. As a result, the vast majority of us have a rather strong inclination to do whatever it takes to reproduce.

I know this is incredibly basic stuff, but you wouldn’t believe the number of people I have encountered who swear that humans do not possess instincts related to reproduction.

Males and females have followed a different historical path toward reproduction, for both the obvious reasons (women bear the brunt of childbearing,) and some less expected ones. Like that, while about 80% of women historically reproduced, it looks like only 40% of men did.

What happens when people don’t have children? On a biological level, something needs to kick in and get them out there, where they can meet people and fuck. Or overthrow society, kill all of the other males, and then fuck. After all, the continuing existence of society means nothing when you don’t have kids.

When men have children, their testosterone drops. The more time men spend around their children, the more their testosterone drops. This is very sensible: it prevents men from murdering their children.

Since American society has, since its founding, afforded enough resources for most men to marry and have children, the normal state for American males by their thirties has been relatively low testosterone. Today, however, millions of people are choosing not to have children, do not live with their children, or are delaying childbearing for decades.

Men who do not have children/live with them do not have this drop in testosterone. They have the testosterone of evolutionary failure, of increasing aggression until, well, they reproduce or die. (Or just get old.)

If I really wanted to embarrass people, I could tell of some of the absolutely nutty things men I know have done to try to get laid. Rational thought and risk assessment go completely out the window. People act like they have gone mad.

The evolutionary pressures on women have been different, but I can’t imagine that they were non-existent. Like men, they probably find pregnancy and babies calming–meeting people requires aggressive, social behavior that (often) leads to violence, but raising babies requires being a quiet, responsible homebody. It’s probably not a coincidence that childbirth triggers, in some women, actual depression.

Women with no children seem, at least anecdotally, highly aggressive. Their willingness to overthrow society is well-known.

On the plus side, childlessness probably drives a certain amount of creativity. The childless can take more risks, and are driven to succeed. But this is not to say that high levels of aggressive hormones are, long term, great for your brain or overall health.

10 thoughts on “Does childlessness drive people crazy?

  1. You understand humans as animals and analyze their behaviors as animal behaviors. It serves you well.

    Being an outsider as a young man with no access to mates played a huge role in making me a dissident adult. I came to see the existing order as an obstacle rather than a guide or benefactor.

    Odd that our society understands the bodily tortures of hunger, thirst, exhaustion, cold, and heat but knows nothing of the primal competition and drive to continue the blood.
    Early in life, I perceived that they would rather have me be a neutered creature than see me succeed.

    I guess to function a society turns a blind eye to a process that must be attended by attrition. Not everyone can enjoy great success or the society fails from excess. What’s more, those who have offspring dilute the relative impact in the population of each. When one family has 8 kids, they affect the whole neighborhood. When every family has 8 kids, not so much.

    I have little doubt that you are onto something about how one’s Darwinian status influences one’s behaviors, disposition, and happiness, while the more daily pleasures pale in comparison.

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    • Thanks.
      I have heard that, of all the small rodents sold at pet stores, rats make the best companions because they are naturally social, rather than solitary creatures. They have little rat societies, with head rats and worker rats and so on.
      But deprive the rats of food for a few days, and they’ll revolt. The starving rats will overthrow the social order, devouring the head rats to survive, or get devoured themselves.

      We recognize food as a necessity because if you don’t eat, you die in a very obvious way. Whereas loneliness just kills people from the inside, a little bit at a time. A friend of mine had almost no human interaction for over a decade, until he began hallucinating that he had friends and a 9-5 job.

      Society shits on those at the bottom of the social totem pole. In elementary school, we called it bullying. Of course, if you point out to bullies their behavior, they lie. “Oh, I never said that.” “I never pushed him.” Etc. You grow up, and they do the same thing. “I would never call a guy a creep just because he’s unattractive.” Lies.

      I hope you have found your way to a better life.

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  2. “Women with no children seem, at least anecdotally, highly aggressive. Their willingness to overthrow society is well-known.”

    True dat.

    The last sentence of Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand, follows:

    “The road is cleared,” said Galt. “We are going back to the world.” He raised his hand and over the desolate earth he traced in space the sign of the dollar.

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  3. There is just one problem. If reproduction lowers aggression, why are the aggressive populations the most fertile and sexually active (minus birth control)? Violent criminals tend to have higher fertility rates than non-criminals (minus abortion) and most extremist like Muslim terrorist don’t calm down after starting families. Also, I highly doubt childlessness has a major impact on ambition, since male business entrepreneurs, certain types of athletes, rappers, classic rockstars and power-hungry politicians tend to be highly fertile and promiscuous (I think one of your articles pointed this out). Also, declining birth-rates world wide have not lend to increases in violence and destruction, the opposite has actually happened.

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    • Aggression gets you babies. After babies, aggression needs to drop so you don’t accidentally murder the babies. But men in places with high murder rates don’t necessarily live with their own babies. My understanding is that many in many black societies, children are essentially raised by their mothers with little male involvement. I wouldn’t be surprised if the same were true of Islamic society.

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    • Single motherhood, no. Separation between men and women such that the fathers are not actually around babies very much, yes. Do you think a man with 5 wives is hanging out with all of them, changing diapers?

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