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“Never Say Never?”: Heterosexual, bisexual, and lesbian women’s accounts of being childfree

Hayfield, Nikki; Terry, Gareth; Clarke, Victoria; Ellis, Sonja

“Never Say Never?”: Heterosexual, bisexual, and lesbian women’s accounts of being childfree Thumbnail


Gareth Terry

Sonja Ellis


Feminist scholars have identified a “motherhood imperative” in Western cultures, where heterosexual women are understood to both want, and have, children. However, social shifts have resulted in a decrease in pronatalism as well as an increase in social recognition of the parenting desires of same-sex parents. Despite a resurgence of interest in childfree identities, research to date has predominantly focused on heterosexual women’s explanations for being childfree and their experiences of marginalisation. Our aim in the current study was to explore how childfree heterosexual, lesbian, bisexual, and queer women negotiate their childfree lives and identities in the context of their personal and social relationships within changing cultural contexts. Data from 23 interviews with women in the United Kingdom, who responded to a call for childfree participants, were thematically analysed. We constructed two themes: 1) Never say never? Negotiating being childfree as ever precarious, shows how women constructed being childfree as requiring constant revisiting and renegotiating to maintain; 2) An ordinary life: Constructing being childfree as rational and reasonable, in which we identify the rhetorical efforts of participants to establish their being childfree as an ordinary, reasonable, and rational position. We conclude that for these women, childfreedom was constantly in flux and that maintaining a positive childfree identity required considerable identity work in order to manage intimate personal relationships and wider friendships.


Hayfield, N., Terry, G., Clarke, V., & Ellis, S. (2019). “Never Say Never?”: Heterosexual, bisexual, and lesbian women’s accounts of being childfree. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 43(4), 526-538.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 18, 2019
Online Publication Date Aug 12, 2019
Publication Date Dec 1, 2019
Journal Psychology of Women Quarterly
Print ISSN 0361-6843
Electronic ISSN 1471-6402
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 43
Issue 4
Pages 526-538
Keywords gender roles, LGB issues, parenting, sexuality, stigma, thematic analysis
Public URL


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