Published on March 16th, 2013 | by Rayne


Childfree? We Know the Why, So What’s the How?

Dr Amy Blackstone, PhD is our guest blogger for the day.


Childfree? We Know the Why, So What’s the How?

By now, we know well why some people choose not to have kids -concern for the environment, the joy of having greater financial security, the desire for freedom in one’s everyday life, a strong commitment to existing relationships, disinterest in children… the list goes on. What we hear less about is how those of us who don’t want kids reach that decision.

As a sociologist, I study childfree people and I’ve learned that how we decide not to have kids can vary. For a few (just 2 of the 45 I have interviewed thus far), it isn’t really a decision at all –they just know they don’t want them. However for most others, the decision takes time, lots of discussion, and plenty of thought. While stereotypes of the childfree suggest that they are selfish beings who give little thought to their actions, my research shows that this couldn’t be further from the truth.

The childfree participants in my study note that choosing not to have kids is a decision they don’t make lightly. It is both a conscious decision and one that occurs over tim.

1. It is a conscious decision.
The overwhelming majority of people I have interviewed say that their decision was well thought out. These people emphasize the deliberate nature of their choice not to have kids by comparing their decision to that of people who do opt to become parents. When I interviewed Bob (all names are pseudonyms to protect study participants), he put it this way: “People who have decided not to have kids arguably have been more thoughtful than those who decided to have kids. It’s deliberate, it’s respectful, it’s ethical.” Sarah said, “I actually think that most people who have children don’t even think about it, they just have them. I think there’s more thinking to decide to not have children.” Interestingly, when describing the conscious nature of their choice, men tended to mention the activities and acquisitions that wouldn’t be possible if they had kids. Women, on the other hand, more often described their concern for the environment and concerns about bringing children into a world where inequality, poverty, and violence persist.

2. It is a process that occurs over time.
For many, the decision not to have kids occurs as a processs rather than as a singular event. As April explained, “It’s not a decision where you’re like, okay, ‘today’s the day that I don’t want kids.’ It’s a working decision.” For some, the process of deciding not to have children began quite early and then developed as they grew older. Kim shared that she had been thinking about not having kids from an early age: “I was a very environmentally conscious child and my big thing at the time was population control, so that was kind of a forming quality of my decision not to have children.”

Here too there are some gendered patterns. While men tend to describe the process by which they chose not to have kids as an internal one, something they thought about on their own over a period of time, women describe reaching their decision by talking through it with significant others, friends, family members, colleagues, and others. However a person comes to decide that kids aren’t for them, the data show it’s a decision that isn’t made thoughtlessly. Childfree people are a diverse bunch –just as the why behind our choices may vary, so too does the how.

Amy Blackstone, PhD
Professor of Sociology
Website: werenothavingababy.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WereNotHavingABaby
Twitter: @nothavingababy
Email: werenothavingababy@gmail.com

“The Childfree PhD”
Dr. Amy Blackstone is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Sociology at the University of Maine. She teaches classes in research methods, sociology of gender, sociology of families, and social movements. In addition to her research on childfree adults,

Dr. Blackstone studies workplace harassment and activism in the breast cancer and antirape movements. Together with her husband Lance, she created we’re {not} having a baby!, a blog and Facebook page dedicated to providing camaraderie and support for the childfree and as a source of information those who might be considering childfree life or curious about why others do so. The we’re {not} having a baby! blog launches this April.


If you like some of the things I say – feel free to add me to your RSS feed, comment or email me: rayne@insufferableintolerance.com. I now have a facebook page! Feel free to like my page by clicking here!


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6 Responses to Childfree? We Know the Why, So What’s the How?

  1. Grackle says:

    Interesting piece!

  2. Flora says:

    Forgot to mention those who decide not to have kids out of fear of passing on mental/physical disability.

    • Rayne says:

      Yes that is true. I know a few couples who have decided to remain childfree not because they don’t want children but because they don’t want to pass on bad genetics.

  3. Pingback: It’s a conscious decision - we're {not} having a baby!

  4. Pingback: we're {not} having a baby! It’s a conscious decision > childfree by choicewe're {not} having a baby!

  5. Pingback: Childfree - "There's more thinking to decide": Research on the Childfree Decision

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