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Choice and circumstance: Qualitative insights into contemporary childlessness in Australia

Le choix et les circonstances: Une approche qualitative de l’infécondité volontaire en Australie

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Abstract

Using data from in-depth interviews with 115 women, men and couples in eastern Australia for whom family formation was a recent, current or imminent future issue, this article explores contemporary childlessness among those physically able to have children. It differentiates between those childless by choice and by circumstance, and among other themes highlights (i) the role preservation of lifestyle appears to play as a motive for deliberate childlessness following development of a life course through early adulthood that both generates lifestyle aspirations and often places parenthood on the backburner until after age 30, and (ii) the roles difficulty forming suitable relationships, women’s desire for meaningful careers, and male involvement in family formation decisions play in bringing about childlessness by circumstance.

Résumé

Sur la base d’entretiens approfondis menés dans l’est de l’Australie auprès de 115 femmes, hommes et couples pour lesquels la formation d’une famille était récente, en cours ou imminente, cet article explore l’infécondité volontaire contemporaine. La différence est faite selon que l’infécondité est une affaire de choix ou de circonstances, et parmi les thèmes abordés figurent (i) le rôle que joue le désir de préserver un certain mode de vie comme facteur d’explication de l’infécondité par choix, quand le cours de la vie au début de l’âge adulte a conduit à des aspirations dans ce domaine, en plaçant souvent la procréation au second plan jusqu’à l’âge de 30 ans et même plus; (2) le rôle que jouent la difficulté à mettre en place des relations durables, le désir des femmes à réaliser des carrières professionnelles, et l’implication des hommes dans les décisions de formation des familles, comme facteurs d’explication de l’infécondité circonstancielle.

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Acknowledgements

This research was supported by a Large Research Grant from the Australian Research Council. Grateful acknowledgement is made of the research assistance of Tsari Anderson, Steven Bradford, Bianca Brijnath, Anne Hirst, Marian May and Narelle Warren. Helpful comments on earlier drafts were provided by Peter McDonald and two anonymous reviewers.

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Correspondence to Gordon A. Carmichael.

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Carmichael, G. A., & Whittaker, A. (2006). Choice and circumstance: Qualitative insights into contemporary childlessness in Australia. European Journal of Population

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Carmichael, G.A., Whittaker, A. Choice and circumstance: Qualitative insights into contemporary childlessness in Australia. Eur J Population 23, 111–143 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10680-006-9112-4

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