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‘It's most of my life – going to the pub or the group’: the social networks of involuntarily childless older men

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 July 2019

Robin A. Hadley*
Independent Researcher, Manchester, UK
*Corresponding author. Email:


The social networks of older people are a significant influence on their health and wellbeing. Adult children are an important element in their parent's network and provide the majority of informal care. The morphology of personal networks alters with age, employment, gender and relationships. Not having children automatically reduces both vertical familial structure and affects the wider formal and informal social links that children can bring. Childless men are missing from gerontological, reproduction, sociological and psychological research. These fields have all mainly focused on family and women. This paper reports on an auto/biographical qualitative study framed by biographical, feminist, gerontological and lifecourse approaches. Data were gathered from semi-structured biographical interviews with 14 self-defined involuntarily childless men aged between 49 and 82 years old. A latent thematic analysis highlighted the complex intersections between childlessness and individual agency, relationships and socio-cultural structures. The impact of major lifecourse events and non-events had significant implications for how childless people perform and view their social and self-identity. I argue that involuntary childlessness affects the social, emotional and relational aspects of men's lived experience across the lifecourse.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2019

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‘It's most of my life – going to the pub or the group’: the social networks of involuntarily childless older men
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‘It's most of my life – going to the pub or the group’: the social networks of involuntarily childless older men
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