When you’re having a child, it’s impossible to tell who they will eventually become. But what if that wasn’t the case? What traits would you prioritise if you could genetically modify your child? Would they be the perfect politician, charismatic and intelligent? Or ready to lead the world through social change by being highly creative and kind? While the genetic technology to alter personality and intelligence is not currently offered, what would parents do if it was?
We asked 1,000 people to share their feelings on the type of child they hoped to have if they would make genetic alterations and how much they’d pay for such a service. We also discovered morality played a part in the perception of genetic alterations. Continue reading to see how Europeans and Americans feel about the future of babies by design.
The Ethics of Genetic Modifications
Of the 1,000 people surveyed about the genetic modifications they would consider making to their future child, those who found these changes ethical or unethical had a difference of opinion in what mattered most.
As science presses onward toward the perfect child specimen, almost of a third who believed genetic modifications were unethical would make the child’s health a priority. However, 23 percent would boost their baby’s intelligence if they had the chance.
Participants who found alterations morally acceptable were almost equally as concerned with making a baby smarter as well as healthier, with 28 percent voting for an active mind and 27 percent voting for an active immune system. For parents and potential parents, preventing a sick child and hoping for an honour system bumper sticker were equally important.
While both sets of would-be parents would modify a child’s creativity and weight, 8 percent of those without ethical concerns would make their child more attractive, while 7 percent of respondents who were morally conflicted voted for kindness.
Parent Picks for Personality
Would-be moms and dads don’t always agree on everything, but when it came to the most desirable mental traits for their little bundle of joy, they were almost identical. Half of men and nearly half of women agreed intelligence was the most important mental characteristic they’d want a hand in crafting for their new baby girl or boy.
They were also aligned on the importance of creativity, with 15 percent of men and 16 percent of women saying they’d prefer the chance to turn finger-painting sessions into real-life masterpieces. Potential moms and dads even agreed kindness was an important personality attribute they’d want to modify.
They were, however, split between the value of courage, charisma, and independence. While almost 1 in 10 men ranked courage as one of the top five traits they’d be willing to modify, women voted for charisma and independence instead.
Designing Your Own Baby
Like mental attributes, men and women had similar opinions about how they would choose to modify their child’s physical features.
While over half of women picked a child’s health as a priority where physical traits were concerned, fewer men agreed. Only 46 percent of men want to meddle in drafting a babies clean bill of health.
Both men and women were equally as interested in modifying parts of a child’s appearance like weight and attractiveness, with around 1 in 4 willing to utilise genetic modification to give their baby better odds at not having to count calories or feel self-conscious about their looks.
Only men were interested in giving their kids heightened strength or athletic ability, while women preferred to adjust their baby's eye colour. Overall, men wanted baby boys, while nearly three-quarters of women wanted a little girl.
Preferred Characteristics Across the Pond
Thousands of miles may separate Europeans and Americans – and the Atlantic Ocean, of course – but they had some shared opinions when it came to the enhanced mental characteristics to make the perfect offspring.
Both agreed intelligence and creativity were of the utmost importance, with 50 percent of Europeans and 49 percent of Americans selecting increased intellectual accomplishments over anything else.
While they agreed on the value of kindness and charisma, nearly 1 in 10 Europeans opted for courage, while 6 percent of Americans voted for independence as a standout attribute worth modifying.
Americans have a history of independence if you will, and it remains a characteristic still widely associated with their values. Because of their proximity and exposure to different cultures, Europeans also have a tendency toward courage and exploration when engaging with people of different origins and backgrounds, making these traits a perfect fit for newly minted European and American children.
The Perfect Look
Europeans and Americans were more likely to agree on the physical traits they’d give their children over mental characteristics. While a majority of survey participants identified health as a primary concern for genetic modification, they were in perfect agreement on the value of adjusting weight and attractiveness regardless of their country of origin.
Just over a quarter of Europeans and Americans would opt to adjust their child’s attractiveness and weight.
When it came to athletic ability and height, however, Americans were more concerned than Europeans – and while most Americans preferred having a boy, more Europeans wanted to have a girl if given the opportunity to choose.
The Cost of Change
With intelligence and health at the top of the pack for potential genetic modifications, and science taking new steps forward every day, we asked could-be moms and dads across Europe and America how much they would be willing to pay for premium upgrades in their tiny tykes.
Men and Americans, in general, were willing to pay the most for increased intelligence in their child, with nearly 1 in 4 willing to pay £7,729 or $10,000 or more for enhanced aptitude to get them through school and beyond. Women and Europeans were less convinced – mostly willing to pay between $1,000 and $2,000 for these savvy upgrades.
Additionally, more than a third of women and men, regardless of nationality, agreed picture-perfect health would be worth $10,000 or more if science were up to the task.
Given free reign to design a baby, most participants wanted the same thing: a smart, healthy child with a creative streak. And while European and American men and women did not agree on a price point for those extra IQ points, they were on the same page when it came to a healthy child. No price was too high.
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We surveyed 500 Europeans and 500 Americans who were either parents or interested in becoming parents and asked them basic demographic questions, as well as questions around what genetic alterations they would make in their children.
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