Women who choose to be childfree feel more pressure to reproduce than other women without children, but they’re less distressed about their childfree lifestyle than other non-moms, new research finds.
Unsurprisingly, women who wanted children but did not have them because of fertility or medical issues were the most distressed, according to the study published in the October issue of The Journal of Marriage and Family.
A life without offspring is becoming the reality for more U.S. women, with estimates suggesting that about 20 percent of American women exit their childbearing years without reproducing, according to 2003 data. (For comparison, 10 percent of women did the same in 1976.) Reasons include deliberate choice, infertility, financial concerns, educational and job demands or the lack of the right partner.
Childfree-by-choice women had the highest family income of all the women in the study, while women with medical barriers to fertility had the lowest.
“This highlights that not all women without children are the same,” McQuillan said. “While some may be devastated, others are content and finding fulfillment through other avenues such as leisure or career pursuits. Rather than assume that women without children are missing something, society should benefit from valuing a variety of paths for adult women to have satisfying lives.”