Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Date of Award

January 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Krista M. Brumley


Research suggests motherhood is central to a woman's adult identity. In 2000, however, almost twice as many women ages 40-44 were childless than in 1980. Scholarship points to the social, economic, and attitudinal factors shaping the dramatic increase in the number of childfree women, many of whom are white, educated beyond high school, and upper-middle class. This qualitative case study focuses on the growing social phenomenon of childfree women in the United States. Using in-depth interviews, I examine the reasons behind women's decisions to remain childfree and the experiences of being childfree in their everyday lives. I focus on the meanings that women and the broader society place on women when they choose not to have children. This research contributes to the feminist literature on motherhood by examining an understudied phenomenon of childfree women who occupy a stigmatized identity in a generally pronatalist society.

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