Deciding to Have Children
Cultural attitudes about having children and about the ideal family size began to-change in the United States - in the-late.1950s. Women:on average. are now having 2.1. children each (see "Sociology Works!"). wever rates of fertility differ across racial and think categories.
In 2006. for example. Latnr (Hispanic women) had a total fertility rate of 2.9. which was 1) percent above that of white (non-Hispanlc) women (National Center for Health Statistics. 2007). Among Latinas, the highest rate of fertility was found among Mexican American women. whereas Puerto Rican and Cuban American women had relatively lower rates. Advances in birth control techniques over the past four decades-including the birth control pill and contraceptive patches and shots-now make it possible
for people to decide whether or not they want to have children. how many they wish to have. and to determine (at least somewhat) the spacing of their births. However. sociologists suggest that fertility is linked not only to reproductive technologies but also to women's beliefs that they do or do not have other opportunities in society that are viable alternatives to childbearing (Lamanna and Riedmann, 2009).
Today. the concept of reproductive freedom includes both the desire to have or not to have one or more children. According to the sociologists Leslie King and Madonna Harrington Meyer (1997). many U.S. women spend up to one-half of their life attempting to control their reproductivity. Other analysts have found that women, more often than men, are the first to choose a child-free lifestyle (Seccombe, 1991). However. the desire not to have children often comes in conflict with our society's protagonist basic. which assumes that having children is the norm and can be taken for granted, whereas those who choose not to have children believe they must justify their decision to others (Lamanna and Riedrnann, 2009).
However. some couples experience the condition of involuntary infertility, whereby they want to have a child but find that they are physically unable to do so. Infertility is defined as an inability to conceive after a year of unprotected sexual relations. Today, infertility affects nearly five million U.S. couples. or one in twelve couples in which the wife is between the ages of fifteen and forty-four (Gabriel, 1996). Research suggests that fertility problems originate in females in approximately 30-40 percent of the cases and with males in about 40 percent of the cases; in the other 20 percent of the cases, the cause is impossible to determine (Gabriel. 1996). A leading cause of infertility is sexually transmitted- diseases. especially those cases develop into pelvic inflammatory disease (Gold and Richards, 1994). It is estimated that about half of infertile couples who seek treatments such as fertility drugs, artificial insemination, and surgery to unblock Fallopian tubes can be helped; however, some are unable to conceive despite expensive treatments such as ill nitro fertilization, which costs as much as $11,000 per attempt (Gabriel, 1996). According to the sociology st Charlene Mill (J 986), women who are involuntarily childless engage in "information management" to combat the social stigma associated with childlessness. Their tactics range from avoiding people who make them uncomfortable to revealing their infertility so that others will not think of them as "selfish" for being childless. Some people who are involuntarily childless may choose surrogacy or adoption as an alternative way of becoming a parent .