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“But why isn’t it an accomplishment not to have children?”: A Qualitative Investigation into Millennial Perceptions of Voluntarily Childless Women

Colledge, Hannah E. and RUNACRES, Jessica (2023) “But why isn’t it an accomplishment not to have children?”: A Qualitative Investigation into Millennial Perceptions of Voluntarily Childless Women. Society. ISSN 0147-2011

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Abstract or description

The concept of women as ‘child-bearers’ and the overarching view of motherhood as a prerequisite for female fulfilment has formed the basis for societal expectations of the female gender for centuries. However, the number of women who choose not to have children is increasing. This research aimed to gain a deeper understanding of millennials’ perception of voluntarily childless women in the UK. It also aimed to explore the extent to which these perceptions are culturally specific and are shaped by societal expectations and the media. Semi-structured interviews were undertaken with participants aged between twenty-three and thirty-eight years. Data were analysed using reflexive thematic analysis informed by a social constructionist epistemological standpoint. Data analysis related to millennial perceptions of voluntarily childless women in the UK revealed three dominant themes: (1) women are expected to behave in accordance with socially constructed gender norms; (2) women are presumed to desire children, as dictated by their gender; and (3) external positive perspectives contrast with internal negative perceptions. Findings indicated that women remain captive to the culture of prevalent gendered expectations that conflate womanhood with motherhood. Millennial mothers displayed external positive perspectives toward voluntarily childless women, but internal prejudices and biases were apparent in the data. Despite the rapidly evolving changes in relation to social norms and gender roles in modern-day life, millennial perceptions in the UK align with the long-standing traditional belief that women must become mothers in order to realise social satisfaction and ultimate fulfilment in their lives.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This version of the article has been accepted for publication, after peer review (when applicable) and is subject to Springer Nature’s AM terms of use, but is not the Version of Record and does not reflect post-acceptance improvements, or any corrections. The Version of Record is available online at:
Uncontrolled Keywords: Voluntarily childless; Thematic analysis; Sex roles; Gender roles; Motherhood
Faculty: School of Health and Social Care > Allied Health and Paramedic Science
Depositing User: Jessica RUNACRES
Date Deposited: 20 Oct 2023 16:05
Last Modified: 21 Oct 2023 04:30

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