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The meaning and experience of intentional childlessness for married women

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Title: The meaning and experience of intentional childlessness for married women
Author: Michener, Sandra L. Currie
Degree Master of Arts - MA
Program Counselling Psychology
Copyright Date: 1996
Abstract: A qualitative phenomenological research design was used to explore the meaning and experience of intentional childlessness for heterosexual, married women. Six women between 38 and 44 years of age from Vancouver and the Lower Mainland volunteered to discuss their experiences of being childless by choice in individual, audio-taped, in-depth interviews with the researcher. Seven common themes were drawn from the participants' interview transcripts using Colaizzi's (1978) procedure for phenomenological data analysis. The results indicated that the women had a strong sense of independence and autonomy that they believed would be compromised by having children. The women sensed they needed to maintain control over their own lives and environments, especially controlling their fertility, their sense of order and certainty, and their home environments. Most of the women had experienced some uneasiness and discomfort when around children. Parenting was viewed as an overwhelming responsibility that they perceived included objectionable emotional investments, sacrifices, and risks. Primarily, the women stated they had no desire to have children; mothering was perceived as hindering careers and the pursuit of other meaningful endeavours. Sensing they were different than other women and especially most married women who "traditionally" are mothers, the participants had rarely directed "maternal" feelings toward children; they lacked both a desire for children and regret for not having them. Perceiving that many other people expected them to have children, the women experienced being called upon to justify their choice and had withstood criticism for choosing to remain childless. The participants perceived childbearing as optional for women and had exercised their right not to have children, presenting their choice as a morally responsible act. The women were constructing their paths through life by evolving a sense of self not identified with motherhood, but instead, a self characterized and defined by engagement in other personally fulfilling and meaningful relationships and pursuits.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2429/4275
Series/Report no. UBC Retrospective Theses Digitization Project [http://www.library.ubc.ca/archives/retro_theses/]

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