“I’m twice as likely not to graduate high school because you had me as a teen.”
“Got a good job? I cost thousands of dollars each year.”
Both those quotes are taglines from a New York City ad campaign running on subways and buses. Both ads feature photos of young children.
The city’s Human Resources Administration (HRA) launched the campaign in March to warn teenagers about the burdens of being a young parent. But the posters displayed city-wide send a larger message to all residents: Children ruin your life.
A similar ad campaign from the Candie’s Foundation (started by the fashion company by the same name) printed celebrity-endorsed messages like, “You’re supposed to be changing the world … not changing diapers,” and “Raising a baby can cost over $10,000 a year; one night could cost you more than you think.”
Both campaigns spread the message that kids cost a lot of money and carry a lot of responsibility without mentioning the joys of child rearing. And teen moms won’t be the only ones to see ads denouncing children. In busy New York City, young women with jobs and husbands will also see the ads. They could be considering children, but ads that present only the downsides of parenting might discourage them.
In a society already showing signs of declining birth rates, would-be parents don’t need more arguments against having kids. Besides, parents who have children, although they may experience more stress and must sacrifice more time and money for their family, find more meaning in life, according to The Atlantic. Parents may not be as “happy,” but they are more fulfilled.
Non-profit organization Strong Families opposed Candie’s campaign, saying on its website that the ad series “stigmatizes and shames young families.” It continued: Young families who choose to parent need respect and support.
HRA Commissioner Robert Doar justified the NYC campaign in a press release: “Teens giving birth before they are ready to provide emotional and financial support is not a good way to raise children. … We must encourage responsibility and send the right message, especially to young people.”
It’s true that children born to young, unmarried parents are more likely to live in poverty, perform poorly in school, and experience emotional and behavioral problems. Teen fathers rarely get involved with their children, causing long-term difficulties. But it’s not the child’s fault. Rather than telling teen parents their life is better without a child, why not encourage them to wait?