Be honest: When you see a couple of child-bearing age that doesn't have kids, do you cringe? Get angry? Feel "moral outrage," even? Because apparently some do. Reporting in the journal Sex Roles, researchers at Indiana University say they asked nearly 200 college students to read one of several descriptions of married adults and rate how fulfilled they thought the person would be, and whether they felt any moral outrage toward the person. They were told the study was about predicting a person's future. One of the major differences? A significant uptick in moral outrage over the voluntarily childless people. "Our data suggests that not having children is seen not only as atypical, or surprising, but also as morally wrong," says the lead researcher.
Subjects also reported that they believed the voluntarily childless people would be less fulfilled. "Ironically, these perceptions have absolutely no basis in reality," the lead author writes. In fact, previous research suggests that non-parent couples are more satisfied with their marriages, and that dissatisfaction actually goes up the more kids couples have. Meanwhile, researchers note, the stigma against childless couples could affect multiple areas of those couples' lives, including the workplace or health care. Live Science reports that the study does have limitations, including that most of the participants were white women in their early 20s. (When straight couples have kids, this parent works more.)