The Latest Trend in Risks to Newborns – Part II

Last week, in Part I, we began this discussion of Judith Shulevitz’s The New Republic article, “The Grayest Generation,” in which she lamented the societal and biological risks of older parenting.


Men over 50 are three times more likely than men under 25 to father a schizophrenic child.

Fertility doctors do a lot of things to sperm and eggs that have not been rigorously tested, including keeping them in culture media teeming with chemicals that may or may not scramble an embryo’s development.

Commonly used, “Clomid . . . came out particularly badly in a recent New England Journal of Medicine study that rang alarm bells about ART [assisted reproductive technology] and birth defects,” reports Shulevitz. “ICSI (intracytoplasmic) sperm injection shows up in the studies as having higher rates of birth defects than any other popular fertility procedure.”

A child with trisomy-18

Trisomy-18 child. Photo:

While she recognizes that women do not want to cut their careers short for the sake of having kids, Judith points out that if they don’t have children, they’re denying themselves s full life.

But older parents have emotional disadvantages. “Procrastinators” become members of the “sandwich generation,” caught between toddlers tugging on one hand and elder parents sharing the latest updates on their ailments. Elderly grandparents provide less support than their younger counterparts.

What haunts her about her own kids is the gamble of dying before they’re ready to set out on their own.

And these problems could proliferate if  “aging parents are, in fact, producing a growing subpopulation of children with neurological or other disorders who will require a lifetime of care. Schizophrenia, for instance, usually sets in during a child’s late teens or early twenties. [British psychiatrist] Avi Reichenberg sums up the problem bluntly. ‘Who is going to take care of that child?’ he asked, ‘Some seventy-five-year-old demented father?’”

The birthrate has dropped by a significant 45 percent around the world since 1975. By 2010, the average number of births per woman had decreased from 4.7 to 2.6.

While Shulevitz is making compelling arguments about older parenting, ones with which we agree, the goals of her arguments are where we part company. She makes the case that society needs to reform itself so that parents become parents at earlier stages of life. That way there will be fewer disabled children, more individuals to care for older generations, and enough workers to replace the aging people who will be better able to adapt to new technologies. She concedes that fewer people means less demand for food, water, land and energy.

Let’s start with the latter first. As we have written on several occasions, when societies move into the middle classes, their per capita consumption of food, water, land and energy skyrocket. Bigger homes, conspicuous consumption, wasted water, cars, heating and air conditioning; you get the picture.

It seems to us that there are three choices for the career-focused. Have your career or your kids. If you want them both, do as many others have done, and burn the candle at both ends earlier in adulthood. But making kids in order to provide preceding generations with a support system is selfish, reckless, and the world’s ultimate Ponzi scheme. We have to stop at some point. Are the projections of 10 billion-plus devourers of natural resources, clean air, and water by the end of this century not enough to scare the bejeezus out of us?



  1. Anonymous Woman says:

    I am always terribly dismayed at anything that encourages earlier parenting since people need to delay long enough to be sure they should have ANY children and to have a bit of a life before they are saddled for life if they choose them.

    That near or over 50% don’t PLAN their children may also be where the problems and exposures lie however whatever the age of the parents. The fetal brain is developing in that important first 3 month period when the average idiot woman in this era hasn’t even bothered to take birth control. (What are your thoughts on this?)

    I am of the view that — barring contraceptive failures — they are literally unfit parents if they did not PLAN to get pregnant. So with those who don’t bother with birth control but just go on and have a kid if a pregnancy “happens” you have (1) not very intellectually gifted parents, (2) not very caring parents since they don’t care about the fetal exposures and (3) I would suspect the aforementioned would also be likely to be careless with the alcohol binging, careless pesticide applications and other environmental and genetic disaster exposures. The brain cells they are destroying with their behaviors are not going to be excess in number. Not one Einstein among them before the problems ensue.

    IMHO, we ought to be having FEWER genetic problems of the ones that can be tested for and aborted. To me, if they are going to willfully have children they know will suffer with these diseases they are also unfit parents and this level of uncaring-ness will inevitably lead to the end of civilization and perhaps human extinction.

  2. Anonymous Woman says:

    I have met three schizophrenics (or probably schizophrenics) in my life whose backgrounds I learned of:

    (!) A coworker told me her 7th child, a son, was schizophrenic. I’d estimate she was in her 40s when she had him, only know he wasn’t under control as he made weird & worrisome calls to her coworkers.

    (2) Person 2 was a coworker whose father was alcoholic and her mother was in her 30s at least when she had her.

    (3) Person 3 was someone whose family I knew well. No other known schizophrenics except a couple of distant mental cases of some type in her maternal line. Her mother took some kind of early fertility treatments or twiddling with the hormones in some way and her parents were in their 30s when they had her.

    I know these are uselessly anecdotal but I was surprised to find that some of the risk factors mentioned were in those cases.

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