Childfree Psy.D. student, Adi Avivi MS, recently conducted an interesting dissertation project. It examined childfree women’s communication on online platforms. I asked Adi if she would summarize her research for us to read here, and she was kind enough to say yes! Here is her summary:
Childfree Women’s Online Discussions of the Choice to Not Have Children: A Qualitative Study
Twenty-nine women volunteered to participate in a study that attempted to explore women’s communication of their childfree (CF) lives in online platforms. Specifically, the research explored childfree women’s computer-mediated interactions with other CFers using a qualitative research model. The data collected from five online discussion boards, designed specifically for the study, yielded four theoretical constructs that reflected the main issues the participants discussed:
1. The CF identity is complex and dynamic
Being CF did not mean that all the participants were similar nor did it imply that CFdom was the most salient aspect of their identity. The CF women who contributed to the study stated that once they were able to communicate with other CFers online, they were exposed to the variety and diversity within this large community. They had different paths to becoming CF, different views on CFdom and parenting, and CF had a different place in each of their lives.
2. Being a CF woman influences interpersonal relationships
The participants of the study reported that their relationships with family, friends, coworkers, and even strangers were frequently influenced by their CFdom. Because CFdom was often criticized, mocked, and misunderstood by others, participants varied in their choice to be honest or censure themselves when talking about the decision not to have children. Those participants who had support in their “off-line” relationships cherished it. Many felt that their relationships were negatively changed when others had children or when they shared their desire to remain CF. Additionally, being CF rendered dating and romantic connections more complicated. Many participants stated that not having children was “a deal breaker” for them, which narrowed their pool of potential partners. Those who had a CF partner often felt that their partner was their sole support outside of the internet.
3. CF dedicated websites are powerful tools of communication, support, information, and socialization
Internet websites dedicated to CF gave the participants rich outlets for many of their social and identity formation needs, which were not met by their “off-line” environment. Conversing and reading about CFdom online gave participants new language to understand themselves and discuss their choice with others. They found much-needed support and information that evoked in them feelings of pride, confidence, and self- worth that they did not feel before. Online, participants found humor and camaraderie, a safe place to honestly express their emotions and views regarding parents and children, and even friendships that extended beyond the internet. They found richness and diversity, convenient access to CFers from all over the world, and the safety of writing anonymously.
4. For CF women, the personal is political
The ability to explore nuances online exposed some of the participants to the connection between their personal choice and broader political consideration. Some women became more politically involved, viewing their CFdom as a motivating factor for activism. They expressed concerns regarding overpopulation, societal sanctioning and subsidizing of families and children, and the place of religion in reproduction. They wanted to fight the stigma and discrimination they suffered and were committed to educating others that CFdom is an equally valuable choice as having children.
More about Adi:
She is a fifth year Psy.D. student at Long Island University Post Campus (LIU). During her studies at LIU Post she has been the co-president of the Students for Multicultural Advancement in Research and Training (SMART) organization for two years, a member of the Trauma Team, and an outspoken peer mentor and advocate. Adi’s research interest is directed toward women on the fringes of society. Her dissertation touches of women’s rights, social norms, and technology.
Also, Adi’s chair/advisor on this dissertation project was Dr. Danielle Knafo, Ph.D., who she says is amazing!
Have questions for Adi? Please post them and make sure she gets them~ Thank you, Adi!