ABSTRACT It is commonly assumed that we have an innate need for children, in particular, that women have a 'mother instinct'. This belief lives in the general public as well as among scientists. In this paper that theory is criticized on two grounds: Firstly, it is argued that the theory is implausible. One reason is that the innate need for sex is biologically sufficient to ensure procreation. Another is that in humans innate motivational tendencies are typically not specific. Contrary to most animals we have no 'instincts'. Human motivation is rather geared by broad 'needs'. The need for social contact can explain procreation behavior equally well. Secondly it is shown that that the theory does not fit reality. They're too many voluntary childless people to maintain that the need for children is universal and there is no indication of adverse consequences. A comparison of Dutch couples with and without children shows more rather than less wellbeing among the childless. The childless feel somewhat more happy and healthy, and report slightly less psychosomatic complaints. This pattern appears among males as well as among females, and is most pronounced in the age-categories 25 to 45.

, , , , ,
doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.2420040408, hdl.handle.net/1765/16121
European Journal of Social Psychology
Department of Sociology

Veenhoven, R. (1974). Is there an innate need for children. European Journal of Social Psychology, 4, 495–501. doi:10.1002/ejsp.2420040408