Why DID they have children? Rural midlife women who are childfree

Amy M. Ruegemer, Lake Dziengel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There remain strong social pressures and attitudes in the United States about feminine identity, especially the expectation of conforming to the role of mother. Ideal femininity and being a mother are often intrinsically linked. Childfree women, those women who choose not to become mothers, face limited understanding, appreciation or acceptance to remain in a non-parenting role and are often presumed as less feminine or caring. This qualitative exploratory study of 10 childfree midlife women in a predominantly rural area of a Midwest state examines how reactions and attitudes of others affected self-esteem and feminine identity through a retrospective lens. Primary themes identified: Motherhood, as underscored by social and societal expectations and stigma; Personal Choice; and Feminine Self-Esteem are addressed. The influence of rural settings is also considered in the discussion. Recommendations for practice with older childfree women are provided.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Women and Aging
StateAccepted/In press - 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Taylor & Francis.


  • childfree
  • childless
  • Midlife women
  • rural

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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