Alternative Lifestyles

, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp 379–402 | Cite as

Voluntary childlessness

A social psychological model
  • Sharon K. Houseknecht


This research compares a nonprobability, precision-matched sample of 27 female undergraduates wishing to remain childless with 27 female undergraduates desiring to have children. The purpose was to test 8 hypotheses in an effort to explain the desire for a childless lifestyle at a relatively early age. A social psychological model is presented that elucidates some of the influential factors. The basic idea of the model is that such a choice can be analyzed in terms of three basic concepts: (1) family background factors; (2) self-other attitudes; and (3) reference groups. The data in this study, although collected at only one point in time, support the argument that these concepts play a central role in the decision to remain voluntarily childless. The family background factors are seen as instigative in the development of autonomy and achievement orientation. These two factors, accompanied by a belief that the advantages associated with childlessness outweigh the advantages associated with childbearing, predispose an individual to desire a childless lifestyle, particularly when these various attitudes are sustained through reference group support.


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Copyright information

© Sage Publications, Inc 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sharon K. Houseknecht
    • 1
  1. 1.Ohio State UniversityUSA

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