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.”
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?