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  • Cited by 5
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    Pushkar, Dolores Bye, Dorothea Conway, Michael Wrosch, Carsten Chaikelson, June Etezadi, Jamshid Giannopoulos, Constantina Li, Karen and Tabri, Nassim 2014. Does Child Gender Predict Older Parents’ Well-Being?. Social Indicators Research, Vol. 118, Issue. 1, p. 285.

    Grundy, E. and Read, S. 2012. Social Contacts and Receipt of Help Among Older People in England: Are There Benefits of Having More Children?. The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, Vol. 67, Issue. 6, p. 742.

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    Hansen, Thomas Slagsvold, Britt and Moum, Torbjørn 2009. Childlessness and Psychological Well-Being in Midlife and Old Age: An Examination of Parental Status Effects Across a Range of Outcomes. Social Indicators Research, Vol. 94, Issue. 2, p. 343.

    Larsson, Kristina and Silverstein, Merril 2004. The effects of marital and parental status on informal support and service utilization: A study of older Swedes living alone. Journal of Aging Studies, Vol. 18, Issue. 2, p. 231.

  • Canadian Journal on Aging / La Revue canadienne du vieillissement, Volume 18, Issue 4
  • January 1999, pp. 447-465

Permanent Childlessness: Perceived Advantages and Disadvantages Among Older Persons*

  • Ingrid Arnet Connidis (a1) and Julie Ann McMullin (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 29 November 2010

This study examines the perceptions of childlessness reported by 287 childless respondents aged 55 and over who were part of a larger study (n - 678) on aging and social support. Sixty-seven per cent (n = 193) report advantages to childlessness and 64 per cent (n = 185) report disadvantages. Qualitative data show that key perceived advantages are fewer worries or problems, financial benefits, greater freedom, and career flexibility. The major disadvantages are lack of companionship/being alone/loneliness, lack of support and care when older, and missing the experience of parenthood. Bivariate and multivariate analyses of the effects that gender, marital status, age, and childless status (childless by choice or by circumstance) have on the perceived advantages and disadvantages of having no children show that there is variability in perceived advantages only. When we compare specific perceived advantages and disadvantages to related experience, only some perceived benefits (financial advantage) are associated with actual experience. Findings are discussed in the context of actually experiencing costs and benefits versus sharing widely-held beliefs about childlessness.


Cette étude examine les perceptions des 287 répondants, eux-mêmes sans enfant, sur le fait de ne pas avoir d'enfants; ils sont âgés de 55 ans et plus et font partie d'une étude plus vaste (rc = 678) sur le vieillissement et le soutien social. Soixante-sept pour cent (n = 193) font état des avantages de ne pas avoir d'enfants et 64 pour cent (n = 185) signalent des désavantages. Les données qualitatives révèlent moins de soucis ou de problèmes, des avantages financiers, une liberté et une disponibilité professionnelle plus grandes parmi les principaux avantages perçus. Le manque de compagnie, la solitude, le manque d'appui et de soins en vieillissant et le manque d'expérience des responsabilités parentales comptent au nombre des principaux désavantages. Les analyses — à deux variables ou à plusieurs variables — des effets qu'ont le genre, l'état civil, l'âge et le fait de ne pas avoir d'enfants (par choix ou selon les circonstances) sur la perception des avantages et des désavantages de ne pas avoir d'enfants démontrent des variations uniquement dans la perception des avantages. Lorsque nous comparons les avantages et les désavantages particuliers tirés de l'expérience, seuls certains avantages (avantages financiers) perçus sont associés à l'expérience réelle. Nous examinons les conclusions à partir d'expériences concrètes des coûts et des avantages par opposition au partage de croyances largement répandues sur le fait de ne pas avoir d'enfants.

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V. Callan (1987). The personal and marital adjustment of mothers and of voluntarily and involuntarily childless wives. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 49, 847856.

V.J. Callan (1985). Perceptions of parents, the voluntarily and involuntarily childless: A multidimensional scaling analysis. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 47, 10451050.

I.A. Connidis , & J.A. McMullin (1996). Reasons for and perceptions of childlessness among older persons: exploring the impact of marital status and gender. Journal of Aging Studies, 10, 205222.

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B.B. Houser , S.L. Berkman , & L.J. Beekman (1984). The relative costs and rewards of childlessness of older women. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 8, 395–379.

V.R. Kivett , & R.M. Learner (1980). Perspectives on the childless rural elderly: A comparative analysis. The Gerontologist, 20, 708716.

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Karen Seccombe . (1991). Assessing the costs and benefits of children:gender comparisons among childfree husbands and wives. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 53, (Feb), 191202.

A.L. Stanton , H. Termen , G. Affleck , & R. Mendola (1991). Cognitive appraisal and adjustment to infertility. Women and Health, 17, 145.

N. Tomes (1985). Childlessness in Canada 1971: A further analysis. Canadian Journal of Sociology, 10, 3768.

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Canadian Journal on Aging / La Revue canadienne du vieillissement
  • ISSN: 0714-9808
  • EISSN: 1710-1107
  • URL: /core/journals/canadian-journal-on-aging-la-revue-canadienne-du-vieillissement
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