Skip to main content
×
×
Home

Childlessness and intergenerational transfers: what is at stake?

  • MARTIN KOHLI (a1) and MARCO ALBERTINI (a2)
Abstract

In this introductory article for the special issue on Childlessness and Intergenerational Transfers, we first discuss the prior research literature and then overview the presented contributions. Up to now, childless older adults have been treated for the most part as both homogeneous and a problematic group. This does not do justice to the different pathways to childlessness: there are those who actively forgo having children, those who defer births so long that they involuntarily become childless, and those who are not fecund or lack a partner. It also neglects the changing social profile of the childless, e.g. the shift from less educated to more highly-educated women. Most importantly, it fails to recognise what childless older people give to others. The studies presented here aim to redress these two deficits in previous research. They examine how the consequences of childlessness are mediated by the pathways to and motivations for being childless and by factors such as gender, education and marital history, and they also examine what childless older adults provide to their families and to society at large. Such adults establish strong linkages with next-of-kin relatives, invest in non-family networks, and participate in voluntary and charitable activities, and broadly do so to a greater extent than older people with surviving children.

Copyright
Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Martin Kohli, Department of Social and Political Sciences, European University Institute, Via dei Roccettini 9, I-50014 San Domenico di Fiesole, Italy E-mail: martin.kohli@eui.eu
References
Hide All
Adloff, F. 2009. What encourages charitable giving and philanthropy? Ageing & Society, 29, 8, 1183–204.
Akerlof, G. A. 1998. Men without children. Economic Journal, 108, 447, 571–83.
Albertini, M. and Kohli, M. 2009. Is the generational link broken? What childless people give. Ageing & Society, 29, 8, xxx–xx.
Bachrach, C. A. 1980. Childlessness and social isolation among the elderly. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 42, 3, 627–37.
Baru, A. and Dhingra, R. 2003. Social status of childless couples in three different ecological settings. The Anthropologist, 5, 247–51.
Callan, V. J. 1985. Perceptions of parents, the voluntarily and involuntarily childless: a multidimensional scaling analysis. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 47, 4, 1045–50.
Callan, V. J. 1987. The personal and marital adjustment of mothers and of voluntarily and involuntarily childless wives. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 49, 4, 847–56.
Chappell, N. L. and Badger, M. 1989. Social isolation and well-being. Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, 44, 5, S169–76.
Choi, N. G. 1994. Patterns and determinants of service utilization: comparisons of the childless elderly and elderly parents living with or apart from their children. The Gerontologist, 34, 3, 353–62.
Connolly, K. J., Edelman, R. J. and Cooke, I. D. 1987. Distress and marital problems associated with infertility. Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology, 5, 1, 4957.
DeOllos, I. Y. and Kapinus, C. A. 2002. Aging childless individuals and couples: suggestions for new directions in research. Sociological Inquiry, 72, 1, 7280.
Dykstra, P. A. 1995. Loneliness among the never and formerly married: the importance of supportive friendships and a desire for independence. Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, 50B, 5, S321–9.
Dykstra, P. A. and Hagestad, G. O. 2007. Roads less taken: developing a nuanced view of older adults without children. Journal of Family Issues, 28, 10, 1275–310.
Dykstra, P. A. and Keizer, R. 2009. The well-being of childless men and fathers in mid-life. Ageing & Society, 29, 8, 1225–40.
Frejka, T. and Sardon, J.-P. 2003. Childbearing Prospects in Low-fertility Countries: A Cohort Analysis. Kluwer, Dordrecht, The Netherlands.
Gillespie, R. 2000. When no means no: disbelief, disregard and deviance as discourses of voluntary childlessness. Women's Studies International Forum, 23, 2, 223–34.
Gillespie, R. 2003. Childfree and feminine: understanding the gender identity of voluntarily childless women. Gender and Society, 17, 1, 122–36.
González, M.-J. and Jurado-Guerrero, T. 2006. Remaining childless in affluent economies: a comparison of France, West Germany, Italy and Spain, 1994–2001. European Journal of Population, 22, 4, 317–52.
Heinz, W. R. 1991. Status passages, social risks and the life course: a conceptual framework. In Heinz, W. R. (ed.), Theoretical Advances in Life Course Research. Deutscher Studien Verlag, Weinheim, Germany, 922.
Hurd, M. 2009. Inter-vivos giving by older people in the United States of America: who received financial gifts from the childless? Ageing & Society, 29, 8, 1205–24.
Jeffries, S. and Konnert, C. 2002. Regret and psychological well-being among voluntarily and involuntarily childless women and mothers. International Journal of Ageing and Human Development, 54, 2, 89106.
Keith, P. M. 1983. A comparison of the resources of parents and childless men and women in very old age. Family Relations, 32, 3, 403–9.
Kivett, V. R. and Learner, R. M. 1980. Perspectives on the childless rural elderly: a comparative analysis. The Gerontologist, 20, 6, 708–16.
Kohler, H.-P. and Ortega, J. A. 2002. Tempo-adjusted period parity progression measures: assessing the implications of delayed childbearing for cohort fertility in Sweden, The Netherlands and Spain. Demographic Research, 6, 145–90.
Kohli, M. 2004. Intergenerational transfers and inheritance: a comparative view. In Silverstein, M. (ed.), Intergenerational Relations Across Time and Place. Annual Review of Gerontology and Geriatrics 24, Springer Publishing Company, New York, 266–89.
Koropeckyj-Cox, T. and Call, V. R. A. 2007. Characteristics of older childless persons and parents: cross-national comparisons. Journal of Family Issues, 28, 10, 1362–414.
Kreyenfeld, M. and Konietzka, D. 2007. Die Analyse von Kinderlosigkeit in Deutschland: Dimensionen – Daten – Probleme [The analysis of childlessness in Germany: dimensions – statistics – problems]. In Konietzka, D. and Kreyenfeld, M. (eds), Ein Leben ohne Kinder: Kinderlosigkeit in Deutschland [Living Without Children: Childlessness in Germany]. VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden, Germany, 1141.
LaMastro, V. 2001. Childless by choice? Attributions and attitudes concerning family size. Social Behavior and Personality, 29, 3, 231–43.
Leridon, H. 2006. Sterility: causes and treatment. In Caselli, G., Vallin, J. and Wunsch, G. (eds), Demography: Analysis and Synthesis. Volume 1, Elsevier, Amsterdam, 457–65.
Lesthaeghe, R. 1995. The second demographic transition: an interpretation. In Mason, J. and Jensen, A. M. (eds), Gender and Family Change in Industrialised Countries. Clarendon, Oxford, 1762.
Letherby, G. 2002. Childless and bereft? Stereotypes and realities in relation to ‘voluntary’ and ‘involuntary’ childlessness and womanhood. Sociological Inquiry, 72, 1, 720.
Lisle, L. 1996. Without Child: Challenging the Stigma of Childlessness. Ballantine, New York.
Monach, J. H. 1993. Childless: No Choice. The Experience of Involuntary Childlessness. Routledge, London.
Neugarten, B. L. and Datan, N. 1973. Sociological perspectives on the life cycle. In Baltes, P. B. and Schaie, K. W. (eds), Life-span Developmental Psychology: Personality and Socialization. Academic, Orlando, Florida, 5369.
Nomaguchi, K. M. and Milkie, M. A. 2003. Costs and rewards of children: the effects of becoming parent on adults' lives. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 65, 2, 356–74.
O'Bryant, S. L. 1985. Neighbors' support of older widows who live alone in their own homes. The Gerontologist, 25, 3, 305–10.
Park, K. 2002. Stigma management among the voluntarily childless. Sociological Perspectives, 45, 1, 2145.
Pinquart, M. 2003. Loneliness in married, widowed, divorced and never-married older adults. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 20, 1, 3153.
Remennik, L. 2000. Childless in the land of imperative motherhood: stigma and coping among infertile Israeli women. Sex Roles, 43, 11/12, 821–41.
Rowland, D. T. 2007. Historical trends in childlessness. Journal of Family Issues, 28, 10, 1311–37.
Rubinstein, R. L., Alexander, B. L., Goodman, M. and Luborsky, M. 1991. Key relationships of never-married, childless older women: a cultural analysis. Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, 46, 5, S270–7.
Sardon, J.-P. 2002. Evolution démographique récente des pays développés [Recent demographic evolution in developed countries]. Population, 57, 1, 123–70.
Sardon, J.-P. 2003. Childlessness. In Demeny, P. and McNicoll, G. (eds), Encyclopedia of Population. Macmillan, New York, 128–30.
Schröder-Butterfill, E. and Marianti, R. 2006. A framework for understanding old-age vulnerabilities. Ageing & Society, 26, 1, 935.
Settersen, R. A. Jr and Hagestad, G. O. 1996. What's the latest? Cultural age deadlines for family transitions. The Gerontologist, 36, 2, 178–88.
Shkolnikov, V. M., Andreev, E., Houle, M. R. and Vaupel, J. W. 2004. The Concentration of Reproduction in Cohorts of US and European Women. Working Paper 27, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.
Spielauer, M. 2004. Childlessness and the Concentration of Reproduction in Austria. Working Paper 28, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.
Thornton, A. and Young-DeMarco, L. 2001. Four decades of trends in attitudes towards family issues in the United States: the 1960s through the 1990s. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 63, 4, 1009–37.
Toulemon, L. 1996. La cohabitation hors mariage s'installe dans la durée [Cohabitation outside marriage is here to stay]. Population, 51, 3, 675715.
Townsend, P. 1957. The Family Life of Old People. Routledge and Kegan Paul, London.
Twenge, J. M., Campbell, K. W. and Foster, C. A. 2003. Parenthood and marital satisfaction: a meta-analytic review. Journal of Marriage and Family, 65, 3, 574–83.
Umberson, D. 1987. Family status and health behaviors: social control as a dimension of social integration. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 28, 3, 306–19.
United Nations Organisation (UNO) 2003. Partnership and Reproductive Behaviour in Low-fertility Countries. Report ESA/P/WP 177, Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, UNO, New York.
Wachter, K. W. 1997. Kinship resources for the elderly. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, B352, 1811–7.
Weltoft, G. R., Burstrom, B. and Rosen, M. 2004. Premature mortality among lone fathers and childless men. Social Science and Medicine, 59, 7, 1449–59.
Wenger, C. G. 2001. Ageing without children: rural Wales. Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology, 16, 1, 79109.
Wenger, C. G. 2009. Childlessness at the end of life: evidence from rural Wales. Ageing & Society, 29, 8, 1241–57.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Ageing & Society
  • ISSN: 0144-686X
  • EISSN: 1469-1779
  • URL: /core/journals/ageing-and-society
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Keywords

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed