I was reading the comments of the following article on paternal health and birth defects. Someone made the following comment.

The other thing is that mens interest in being a father is nowhere near a high priority as women's is to be a mother.

While this seemed like uninformed opinion, it seemed to raise an interesting question.

  • Is there any scientific empirical evidence to suggest that males and females differ in their desire to have children?
  • $\begingroup$ Well, the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence. Meaning, I couldn't find anything. But there are numerous of studies made of gender differences in the desire to mate, but that's not really what you're asking. Good question! $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 31, 2012 at 13:49
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Well, men do have a much longer fertile period, so I think you're comparing apples and oranges. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 31, 2012 at 20:38

2 Answers 2



Even when the degree of men's and women's desires to have children are forced by study parameters into yes/no pigeonholes, there are very few studies, and the results are arguably inconclusive. Also, men's and women's rates of desire to have children are continuously shifting, and thus the answer may change over time. Finally, the studies have been limited to the United States and/or the United Kingdom.



A tentative conclusion could be that men are more decisive, outnumbering women in both categories -- wanting to have and wanting NOT to have children. But, more research is required to reliably answer your question, and by then the answer may have changed.


  • Gore, D.L. (2002) I Don’t Want Any Children... Ever: Gender Differences in Voluntary Childlessness in the US, 2002 [pdf]
  • McAllister, F. and Clarke, L. (1998) Choosing Childlessness. London: Family Policy StudiesCentre.
  • $\begingroup$ It is a chicken vs pig question: the effort, risk and results of having children are not evenly distributed. A bit like asking men vs women if we should go to war. $\endgroup$
    – user9634
    Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 22:33

I would like to point out impact of having kids. In typical case, kids have much greater impact on many levels of her life, than on his. I have seen more research on this topic, but now I found just a few examples

Anne-Marie Nicot (2009) Impact of parenthood on careers of young men and women read - not original research

Does having children create happiness? read - interesting references included

Also, as has been mentioned in one of papers above:

"Motherhood is seen as a sign of achievement and femininity, while a man’s accomplishments are viewed through his income and career." (Gore, 2002)

Therefore, I would say that asking a man whether he want or doesn't want to have kids is a completely different question than asking a woman the same thing.

Having this on mind, you can see, how to interpret results in answer of John Pick. Asking men, they have less trouble to reach a decision and hold on to it. It is a serious question, but not quite as much serious, as the same question for women is.

You do not ask a man, if he wants to be pregnant, if he wants to give birth, if he wants to leave his career for some time and then return as woman with kids (means someone who is expected to be worse work candidate because of the household and kids). You also do not ask him, if he wants to have an opportunity to achieve something in the field typical for his gender.

Imagine asking someone, if she wants to have children. And then imagine asking someone else, if he wants his partner to have children. It is not the same question and comparing answers only emphasises this fact.

  • $\begingroup$ So, basically, it is impossible to ask the same question to both men and women. $\endgroup$
    – user9634
    Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 22:39

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