Gender Issues

, Volume 28, Issue 4, pp 226–247 | Cite as

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

  • Stephanie RichEmail author
  • Ann Taket
  • Melissa Graham
  • Julia Shelley
Original Article


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.


Childlessness Stigma Stereotypes Pronatalism Femininity 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephanie Rich
    • 1
    Email author
  • 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

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