Chosen childlessness in Ireland: a qualitative study of women's decision making, biography making and identity management

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Cronin, Joan
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University College Cork
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This thesis explores the experiences of women who are childless by choice in Ireland, to gain a greater understanding of the motives that influence the women’s decision making, to examine how others react to that decision, and to consider the strategies the women engage in to manage the reactions of others. Original data was gathered from qualitative interviews with twelve women who identified as childless by choice, theories of individualization, reflexivity, stigma and stigma management are drawn upon to gain a deeper understanding of women’s voluntary childlessness. Analysis of the data indicates that the women’s decision making was shaped by a myriad of complex factors, including reflections on childhood relationships with parents, experiences of previous caring responsibilities, concerns about poverty and financial security, perceptions of the demands of motherhood, and the benefits of a childfree life, a lack of maternal instinct, fear of pregnancy, and health concerns. The women frequently expressed concerns about how motherhood would change their lives, suggesting an orientation towards individualization, and an awareness of the difficulties involved in combining motherhood with personal aspirations and the plotting of a self-determined life-course. A number of women made an early decision not to have children, while others postponed the decision, until such time as they no longer wanted children or they were unable to have them. Seven of the twelve women reported receiving negative reactions to their decisions to be childless. Some experienced negative appraisal of their decision not to have children, were questioned about it, or experienced social pressure to alter, defend, or justify it. To manage this negative appraisal the women used reactive, intermediate, or proactive strategies, depending on the extent to which they accepted or challenged pronatalist ideologies.
Chosen childlessness , Voluntary childlessness , Childless by choice
Cronin, J. 2019. Chosen childlessness in Ireland: a qualitative study of women's decision making, biography making and identity management. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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