Women's experiential journey toward voluntary childlessness

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Voluntary childlessness is a relatively novel yet growing phenomenon. This idiographic study explored three women's experiential journeys toward voluntary childlessness. Semi-structured interviews were carried out and analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. Themes identified were: Owning the choice to be childless, social expectations, and models of mothering. Despite defining ‘voluntary childlessness’ as an unequivocal decision, the women's experiential accounts revealed an intrinsic fluidity in their journeys toward childlessness. Factors including beliefs in equality, independence and career aspirations competed with constructs of mothering/motherhood, partnership and choice to create a complex tapestry of contributory factors in these women's childlessness. The findings question the notion of choice and particularly women's ownership of that choice. The journeys toward childlessness these women shared reveal a synthesis of agentic decision-making, personal histories and challenging lifestyle choices bound up within an existential need to be a woman. More research is needed to determine the place of voluntary childlessness within society. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-163
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Community and Applied Social Psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2011

Bibliographical note

This is the pre-peer reviewed version of the following article: Shaw, Rachel L. (2011). Women's experiential journey toward voluntary childlessness. Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology, 21 (2), pp. 151-163, which has been published in final form at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/casp.1072/abstract


  • voluntary childlessness
  • female identity
  • family
  • interpretative phenomenological analysis


Dive into the research topics of 'Women's experiential journey toward voluntary childlessness'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this