Annoying Infant - Helpful Adult. Do Costs and Benefits of Children Change As Kids Get Older and What Does It Have to Do with Voluntary Childlessness?

Monika Mynarska, Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University in Warsaw
Sylwia Timoszuk, Warsaw School of Economics

The aim of the paper is to deepen our knowledge on voluntary childlessness by exploring what costs and benefits of children are appreciated or neglected by women, who chose to have no offspring. We add to previous studies by taking the life-course approach. It has been shown that voluntarily childless women tend to describe themselves as lacking in maternal instinct, and as not being comfortable around infants. We expand these findings by looking at costs and benefits associated with different stages of a child’s life. Our main research questions are: What costs and benefits of children are perceived as important for women? What stages of the child’s life course are they related to? And how do these perceptions matter for women’s choice to remain childless?

We analyze a set of 55 in-depth semi-structured interviews conducted in Poland with childless women aged 31-42, that is at ages when the decisions for or against motherhood are taken. During the recruitment process, almost 70% of our interviewees declared that it is unlikely for them to become mothers, but they were characterized by different levels of childbearing motivation (measured with the Miller’s Childbearing Questionnaire). Such a composition of the sample allows us to contrast perspectives of those who wish to lead a childfree life with those, who remain childless due to various life-circumstances and those, who want to become mothers. Consequently, we are able to provide a rich account of how decision to remain childless is related to women’s perceptions of immediate as well as long-term costs and benefits of motherhood.

Presented in Session 98: Childlessness