Gender Issues

, Volume 28, Issue 4, pp 226–247

‘Unnatural’, ‘Unwomanly’, ‘Uncreditable’ and ‘Undervalued’: The Significance of Being a Childless Woman in Australian Society

  • Stephanie Rich
  • Ann Taket
  • Melissa Graham
  • Julia Shelley
Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s12147-011-9108-1

Cite this article as:
Rich, S., Taket, A., Graham, M. et al. Gend. Issues (2011) 28: 226. doi:10.1007/s12147-011-9108-1

Abstract

Childlessness is an increasing trend, internationally and in Australia. The few studies exploring the lived experiences of childless women have been conducted in America, Canada and the United Kingdom; predominantly during the 1980s and 1990s. The experiences of childless women in contemporary Australia remain under-researched. This hermeneutic phenomenological study sought to enhance understanding of the lived experience of being a childless woman in contemporary Australia. In-depth interviews with five childless women revealed five key themes as significant facets of the experiences of childless women: notions of ‘natural’ and ‘unnatural’; woman = mother; childlessness as a discrediting attribute; feeling undervalued; and the significance of being childless. By privileging the experiences of childless women in a pronatalist society, it is apparent that misconceptions and stereotypes about childlessness continue to pervade. This study contributes to understanding this growing population group; highlighting that while childlessness is increasingly acknowledged, it is still not completely understood.

Keywords

ChildlessnessStigmaStereotypesPronatalismFemininity

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephanie Rich
    • 1
  • Ann Taket
    • 1
  • Melissa Graham
    • 1
  • Julia Shelley
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Health Through Action on Social Exclusion (CHASE), School of Health and Social DevelopmentDeakin UniversityBurwoodAustralia