Women more supportive than men of childlessness

By Tom Nordlie • Published: March 18th, 2008
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Parenthood can be a wonderful thing, but it’s not for everybody.

Is it supposed to be? That depends on whom you ask.

Many Americans believe life isn’t complete without kids.

But nowadays, women are more likely than men to say it’s okay to be childless.

That’s the conclusion of a University of Florida study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family.

Researchers used data from two national surveys involving more than twelve-thousand people in total.

Participants were asked if they agreed with three statements concerning the importance of parenthood.

One statement said, “It is better to have a child than to remain childless.”

Overall, about twenty-six percent of women disagreed, but only eighteen percent of men.

There were similar gender gaps for the other two questions.

Disparities also appeared when participants were categorized by other demographic information.

A larger percentage of white women than black women supported childlessness. But white and black men had virtually the same outlook.

Positive attitudes about childlessness were linked to being young or middle-aged, highly educated and employed.

The researchers said women may be more accepting of childlessness because parenthood has different costs and benefits for each gender.

Previous studies suggest working mothers may lose opportunities for career advancement.

And married women may fear becoming single parents if they divorce.

The researchers cautioned that their findings don’t mean large numbers of women are against parenthood.

Instead, they say, women are just more inclined to believe children aren’t a requirement for happiness.