One in twelve parents say they regret having children

Eir NolsoeData Journalist
June 24, 2021, 8:53 AM UTC

But many parents, and younger ones in particular, wish they’d had more kids

Online forums such as Mumsnet, Reddit and Quora are full of threads with guilt-ridden parents who desperately ask if anyone else regrets having children too.

YouGov data shows that while the vast majority of parents (83%) insist they’ve never felt this way, a small number admit to it. One in twelve parents (8%) say they regret having children, while another 6% have previously had regrets but don’t now.

While there’s no difference between mothers and fathers, younger parents aged 25 to 34 are the most likely to feel regretful, with one in five either rueing their choice (13%) or having done so (9%).

Those aged 55+, for most of whom tantrum-throwing toddlers and sleep deprivation are a fading memory, are the least woeful. Only one in ten are unhappy with their decision to have children (6%) or have questioned it in the past (4%).

Among the 8% of parents who still regret having kids, 5% say it’s to a small extent, while for 2% it’s to a moderate degree, and for 1% to a large extent.

The pattern is fairly similar among mothers and fathers who have previously been unhappy with parenthood, with 5% insisting their regrets were minor, and 1% saying they regretted it to a moderate degree.

Three in ten parents wish they’d had more children

While some 8% of parents currently feel regretful about their offspring, a separate survey shows that only half as many (4%) say they would not have had children if they could do it all again. A similar figure say they would have had fewer kids (4%). It’s much more common for people to wish they’d had more children, at 29%. The majority (54%) would have the same number if given the option again.

A third of younger parents aged 25 to 49 (32%) wish they’d had more children, while parents in the oldest age group, 65+, are the least likely to say so at 25%. The UK’s fertility rate is much lower today than in the 1960s and 70s, meaning younger Britons tend to have fewer children than their parents’ generation.

In this instance there is also a difference between the genders, with a third of mothers (32%) wishing they’d had more children, compared with one in four fathers (24%).

See the full results here and here