⚫ A study cites regret among adults who didn't want kids but became parents anyway

⚫ Many U.S. pregnancies are unintended

⚫ Researchers say regretful parents aren't necessarily bad parents

If you could do it all over again, would you still have kids?

Plenty of parents today never wanted children in the first place, and many still regret the fact that it happened.

That's the hard truth revealed in newly published research out of Rutgers University, which also found that many people who preferred to be child-free essentially had kids out of "fear of missing out," aka FOMO.

Fear of missing out spurred pregnancies

"People were saying to them, you're really missing out on an important part of life, this fulfilling part of life that you can only get if you're a parent," said Kristina Scharp, co-author of the study and an associate professor in the Rutgers School of Communication and Information.

Researchers utilized narratives from a "child-free" thread on the forum website Reddit. Over the course of a decade, parents who regretted having children posted to the thread, and Scharp and her colleagues coded the posts to find common themes.

"Our findings suggest that people felt a lot of pressure — this is what I should be doing," Scharp said. "And then they came to realize, my initial instinct was right — I really didn't want to be a parent."

The study notes that parental regret contradicts social norms — parents, particularly mothers, are "supposed to love their children unconditionally from conception to eternity."

Regretful parents can still be good parents

But regretful parents are not necessarily bad parents, Scharp said. Many are perfectly fine with their lives today, but admit that if they could turn back time, they'd probably remain child-free the next time around.

"You can have regrets about things and still do something really well," Scharp said.

The latest statistics claim that 48% of all pregnancies in the U.S. in 2011 were unintended. The United Nations Population Fund says it's about the same rate today for pregnancies globally.

According to Scharp, some people think that "being a parent is their only choice." But couples should have real conversations before making such a life-altering decision.

"There's nothing wrong with people choosing to be child-free," Scharp said. "Being child-free doesn't hurt anybody."

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