Date of Award

1987

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Education

Program

Counseling Psychology, Ph.D.

First Advisor

Selma A. Chaij

Second Advisor

Frederick A. Kosinski, Jr.

Third Advisor

Caleb Rosado

Abstract

Problem. The literature is replete with findings to show that childlessness is a contemporary and growing trend. However, no known study has been done to explore what marriage means to the couple who chooses childlessness. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to explore the meaning of marriage to the voluntarily childless couple.

Method. This study was done with a purposive sample of 42 couples. These couples were selected from referrals made through contact with a local radio station. Some were selected from referrals made by church pastors who were aware of couples in their congregations who are voluntarily childless, and others from referrals through a snowballing effect, i.e., from some of the subjects themselves and personal contact made by the researcher. The couples were purposively selected to represent a wide cross-section of the American population (two were from Canada and one from Portugal) with specific reference to demographics, economic level, religious values, and occupational orientations. This study used the qualitative approach and the major research method was in-depth interviews.

Findings. The findings of this study revealed that:

1. There are three main motivations for the choice of childlessness, (a) painful experiences in childhood, (b) fear of the future, and (c) tension between personal goals and parenting.

2. Childless life-style promoted autonomy.

3. Childless marriages lacked disturbances often brought on by teenagers.

4. Childlessness promoted a one-to-one marital relationship.

5. Childlessness fostered companionship between spouses.

6. Childless couples are usually professionals and usually lived in the city.

7. Childless couples are well-adjusted and are socially approved individuals who seem concerned about saving children from the abuse and pain they often face.

8. Childless couples often have pets but do not see pets as a substitute for children.

9. The choice to be childless appeared to be developmental.

10. The life cycle of the childless couple was found to be divided into four stages.

11. Voluntarily childless couples had a higher percentage of discretionary income.

12. Childless couples enjoyed their life-style-they saw their involvement in their careers as their social investments.

Conclusions. One may conclude that the choice to be childless was reactive. It was an attempt to reduce anxiety created by a perceived dysfunction in one’s family of origin or perceived fear from the lack of control one has over the things that impact parenting and its outcome.

Subject Area

Childlessness.

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