I recently had the pleasure of doing a Q&A with sociologist and criminologist, Kimya N. Dennis, who is currently conducting an interesting study on childfree Black women:
What inspired you to do a study on childfree Black women?
First, my sociological interests include the perpetuation of gender norms and the intersection of race and gender, both of which are components of pronatalism and societal pressures to have biological or adopted children.
Second, I am childfree and although I have never had a desire to have biological or adopted children, years ago I was unaware that there were many people around the world who feel as I do (including generations of people who had children). I began reading literature and websites, which sparked my interest in childfree Black women and men.
Tell us about the purposes of your study.
The purposes of the childfree Black women study are to:
- explore the perspectives and experiences of childfree Black women around the world
- address the intersection of race and ethnicity and gender
- to examine similarities and differences among the childfree across race and ethnicity
I hope to further this study with childfree Black men around the world, a population that appears to be even more elusive than childfree Black women around the world.
What hypotheses do you have and why?
1a: Childfree Black women/men are similar to childfree non-Blacks in the tendency to feel at an early age ambivalence or lack of desire to have children.
1b: Childfree Black women/men are similar to childfree non-Blacks in the tendency to feel at an early age a requirement and expectation to have children.
2a: Childfree Black women/men who feel most confident and comfortable in their decision tend to have a strong support system in friends, family, or live in cities where diverse lifestyles and reproductive choices are celebrated.
2b: Childfree Black women/men are less likely than childfree non-Blacks to have a strong support system in friends, family, or live in cities where diverse lifestyles and reproductive choices are celebrated.
3: Childfree Black women/men consider their childfree status and experiences to be overtly or covertly impacted by gender and race and ethnicity.
These hypotheses pertain to the range of factors correlated with and influenced by the decision to be childfree. There are similarities and differences across race and ethnicity. Most of the childfree have been exposed to pronatalist ideologies and have been challenged about their choice to be childfree. To feel confident and stable in the decision to be childfree is comparable to feeling confident and stable in any non-conforming decision. A strong support system and exposure to varying perspectives and lifestyles are conducive to such confidence and stability. Such a support system and exposure are relatively uncommon among the childfree and this is especially the case for racial and ethnic minorities. This highlights the impacts of gender and race and ethnicity on decisions and experiences.
Why do you think there is so little research in this area?
People who choose not to have children are already a minority. There is a growing body of literature, but it can be difficult to access the childfree due to the size of its population and the debate regarding what constitutes “childfree.” This is even more difficult for childfree who are racial and ethnic minorities. Simply put, childfree Black women and men are a minority within a minority.
Kimya N. Dennis is an Assistant Professor and Coordinator of Criminal Studies at Salem College in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Her sociological interests include the childfree and definitions of “family”, the intersection of race and gender, and the living wage. Her criminological interests include interdisciplinary study of suicide, mental health, and Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) for law enforcement.
For more information on this research and her study on childfree Black men, contact Kimya at [email protected].
Thank you, Kimya!
I’m just wondering out loud how much Oprah Winfrey has brought the issue of childfree African Americans into the public consciousness, intentionally or not. She must be, hands down, the most well-known childfree African American, and possibly the most well-known childfree person of ANY ethnicity.
Excellent point. I have pitched Oprah network before and maybe will again with this idea! Scott, love your brain ; )
Laura, what would we do without you?
Well aren’t you kind!
Not to be picky here, but wasn’t Oprah pregnant and had a miscarriage or something? To me, a Childfree person has never had children and never been pregnant either.
I do think you are right – pregnant as a result of abuse I believe…do I have that right? I do not know if she had the child…she does not talk about this. I do know on Barbara Walters she spoke directly about how given her professional life she knew it would not be good for her child if she had one, and so chose not to have any. She has said that the girls at the school she has in Africa are ‘her girls’.
Laura, thank you for all of the support for this research. I also want to thank the childfree women and men of the African diaspora around the world who have participated so far.
I want to send a reminder that this is an ongoing/continuing study. If you are interested in participating please email [email protected]
Hi Kimya! I hope the study is going well thus far….all the best to you! ~L PS Will shout out again on twitter!