A recent study of people with no children in Western Australia by University psychology lecturer Bronwyn Harman shows some high numbers when it comes to the choice factor. However, Dr. Harman also found that “childlessness in Australia is viewed negatively, and is largely misunderstood.” Here’s some detail.
Harman’s study involved 330 adults, the majority of whom were women. When surveyed:
–Three-quarters-75 percent-said they “made an active choice to not have children.”
–30 percent said they just weren’t maternal/paternal.
–16 percent said children would “ruin their lifestyle.”
–8 percent said the wanted to “concentrate on their career.”
–About 8 percent said they did not have children because they thought it “was a bad world to bring children into.”
–Almost 7 per cent reported “an active dislike of children.”
It is worth noting that almost 30 percent also said they may have children later in life. So to dissect this a bit, it seems that those who say this would be a slice of the participant sample that are potential “postponers” or “fencers”?
But the survey also has some findings that point to stubborn stigmas associated with not having children by choice. For example, Harman reports that women “who don’t want children are still being victimised for being ‘selfish’ or ‘immature.’ ” It also speaks to how “unfair gender stereotypes were alive and well in modern Australia:” “For men (in the study) who had chosen to be childless, it was not seen as a big thing,” Dr Harman said. “They didn’t report any adverse reactions, but women received very strong reactions from others.” Those reactions most often went to the selfish myth and the response that they would eventually change their minds.
Equal Opportunity Commissioner Yvonne Henderson sums up the the negative attitude towards childfree very well – that it is “an example of sex discrimination based on out-dated ideas about the role of women.” Now that is a message worth repeating not just in Australia but everywhere!
Studies like these point to how the growing numbers of childfree reflect progress to a post-pronatal society, but also to the unfortunate fact that that progress remains up against embedded pronatalist beliefs. We have to keep chipping away at these beliefs because that is all they are – out-dated or never true in the first place!
Those from Australia and those familiar with this country, do the results of Harman’s study ring true?
I get ‘bingoe’d’ less now, at 38 and because people know how I feel. Although it still does happen on a semi-regular basis.
Now I get the “We know you don’t want kids, but you do go on about it”, because I occasionally post articles on FB and twitter. One person even said, “I’d laugh if you got pregnant.”
I reply, “I’ll stop ‘going on’ when people stop telling me I’m wrong, or that I’ll regret it,” etc etc.
It’s amazing how many people don’t reply when I give as good back.