School for Social Work
The purpose of this study was to gain understanding of the experiences of women who have chosen to remain childless. Voluntarily childless women's experiences of regret and or satisfaction with the decision to not have children are considered against other variables and themes which emerged in review of the literature. This qualitative exploratory study used flexible methods to interview twelve women, located through a process of snowball sampling, who identified themselves as being voluntarily childless. Participants who met criteria were older than the age of 35 and had made a conscious decision at some point in their lives to not have children. The collected narratives were examined using Cultural Relational Theory, a phenomenological based approach which examines the quality of women's relational experiences in states of connection and disconnection. The findings of this research showed that women who have never wanted to have children and who are supported around their decision to not have children fare better in terms of satisfaction with their decision than women who became childless through a series of postponements. Women experienced more regret when confronted with either personal challenges to their decision from others, or when faced with dominant cultural messages which assume motherhood as a developmental norm and do not value other nurturing or work related contributions as valid forms of normative development in lieu of motherhood.
Manning-Kelly, Sharon Marie, "The experience of voluntarily childless women in contemporary New England" (2007). Masters Thesis, Smith College, Northampton, MA.