Childless by Chance or by Choice? An Insight with in-Depth Interviews

Annalisa Donno, University of Padova
Maria Letizia Tanturri, University of Padova
Giulia Zanini , Queen Mary University

In Italy the proportion of childless women at the end of reproductive life has doubled in one generation and it is among the highest ever registered in the world: 22%. A burgeoning of publication has recently identified individual characteristics of women that are associated to childlessness using basically retrospective survey data. However, it is difficult to study effectively what people evaluate to make the decision, and what the predominant elements that they do take into consideration and that can be decisive in choosing for parenthood or not are. The innovative idea of this paper is to rely on qualitative data from a study specifically designed to investigate childlessness on the factors driving both women and men to childlessness in their life-course decision making process. The results illustrate how decision-making about becoming parents or not is rarely perceived as a one-off event in one’s life. It rather emerges in people’s life at different moments and includes different kinds of engagement on the part of the subjects. Our data confirm existing literature about permanent childlessness sometimes resulting from a never ending postponement of parenthood or from postponement of parenthood and subsequent infertility. Moreover, our data show that for some people permanent childlessness is the result of a low engagement into making conception possible through unprotected sexual intercourse or through assisted reproduction, while for others it follows the deliberate decision not to conceive at a certain moment in life or to refuse or stop using given conception methods (i.e. artificial insemination).

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 Presented in Session P1. Poster Session Fertility, Family and the Life Course