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Psychol Women Q. 1979 Winter;4(2):266-73.

Some assumed characteristics of voluntarily childfree women and men.



From written descriptions, 2 experiments were conducted to assess student's perceptions of women and men who are voluntarily childless. Experiment 1 examined attitudes toward a hypothetical childfree women who opted for sterilization. The decision for sterilization denotes a behavioral commitment to remaining childfree. 156 undergraduates and 29 high school and 32 adult school students were questioned. The childfree woman was seen as less sensitive and loving, less typical as an American woman, and more likely to be active in woman's liberation. Also, she was rated less happy, less well-adjusted, and less likely to be content at age 65. She is seen as significantly different in several important ways from an otherwise identically described parent. The perception that a childfree woman is atypical in American society is the only 1 which is demonstrably accurate. However, the study does not support all of the pronatalist charges. In Experiment 2, the subjects were 116 undergraduates. Brief descriptions of 2 men and 2 women (hypothetical) were included; 1 had 2 children, 1 was childfree, and 2 made no mention of children. In 1/2 the cases, the woman was childfree; in the other 1/2 it was the man. The woman with no children was seen as more selfish and more atypical than was the woman who was the mother of 2. The mother was seen as happier and better adjusted. Students' perceptions of the males were quite striking. the childfree husband was perceived as signficantly more selfish and less typical than the father of 2, as well as less well-adjusted, less sensitive, less loving, and less fulfilled. Thus both experiments' results find less desirable traits ascribed to the sterilized childfree woman. Data also show that nonsterilized men and women are perceived differently when they are childfree and choose to remain so. There were more significant differences in perceptions of the childfree husband than for the childfree wife. It seems that married men who opt not to have children may also be victims of negative stereotyping.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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