Childfree Introverts, Extroverts, or Ambiverts?

I continue to be curious about whether the childfree are more likely to be introverted. I posted on this topic awhile back with some interesting research on introverts, and more recently read Susan Cain’s excellent book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking looking for possible answers…

While the childfree and introversion is not discussed directly, the plot thickens when it comes to the definition of introversion. One famous definition is based on psychologist Carl Jung’s,  personality “typologies” or “temperaments.”  There are sites like that have forums discussing Jungian “types,” and threads pondering whether the childfree are not just introverted, but particular combinations of the four-part personality “type.”

However, Cain tells us that today there are “as many definitions of introvert and extrovert as there are personality psychologists…some think that Jung’s ideas are outdated; others swear that he is the shy manonly one who got it right.”

In her book, she gives readers a short, informal quiz (not a validated personality test) “formulated based on characteristics of introversion often accepted by contemporary researchers” to determine where they are on the introversion/extroversion spectrum.

Think about these items –whether they are true of false as they apply to you, “more often than not:”

  • “I prefer 1-on1 conversations to group activities.
  • I often prefer to express myself in writing.
  • I enjoy solitude.
  • I seem to care less than my peers about wealth, fame and status.
  • I dislike small talk, but enjoy talking in-depth about topics that matter to me.
  • People tell me I’m a good listener.
  • I’m not a big risk-taker.
  • I enjoy work that allows me to  ‘dive in’ with few interruptions.
  • I like to celebrate birthdays on a small scale, with only one or two close friends or family members.
  • People describe me as ‘soft-spoken’ or ‘mellow.’
  • I prefer not to show or discuss my work with others until it’s finished.
  • I dislike conflict.
  • I do my best work on my own.
  • I tend to think before I speak.
  • I feel drained after being out and about, even if I’ve enjoyed myself.
  • I often let calls go through to voice mail.
  • If I had to choose, I’d prefer a weekend with absolutely nothing to do to one with too many things scheduled.
  • I don’t enjoy multi-tasking.
  • I can concentrate easily.
  • In classroom settings, I prefer lectures to seminars.”

(* from Quiet, pp. 13-14)

If you answered more statements as true, the more introverted you probably are. If you answered about the same number of true as false, you “may be an ambivert” – as Cain says, “yes, there really is such a word”!

Me–Ambivert. You?

Cain says that even if you answer every question as an introvert or extrovert, it does not mean your behavior “is predictable across circumstances.” Jung would say that we all have “preferences” but we have the capacity to be able to be both introvert and extrovert, and as we get older, tend to move to the center of the continuum as part of the self-actualization process.

Cain has a bit different take, and describes how and why there are different “kinds of introverts and extroverts”…For example, “if you’re an artistic American guy whose father wished you’d try out for the football team like your rough-and-tumble brothers, you’ll be a very different of introvert from, say, a Finnish businesswoman whose parents were lighthouse keepers.”

Makes me ponder–are the childfree necessarily  likely to be introverts, or are they more apt to be different kinds of introverts and extroverts…or ambiverts?

What do you think?

I know one thing: Would I love to see some formal research on the childfree personality!

16 thoughts on “Childfree Introverts, Extroverts, or Ambiverts?

  1. I think pobably introverts are a very high percentage of the childfree. As a childfree working woman, time to myself I feel is a major advantage of being childfree-in fact I would like more it it.

    This does not describe me but it would describe my husband who is quite solidily childfree. I think a lot of childfree people had too much responsibility taking care of others as a child as feel burnt out as an adult.

  2. I’m an introvert; my husband is an extrovert. I guess we cancel each other out. In his case, he’s an extrovert with a consuming passion – music (he’s a drummer) – and being child free allows him to pursue that dream MUCH more than he’d be able to with a family.

  3. I think that its neither here nor there. Of all the childfree people I know, around half of us are more introverted and the other half are extroverted and love to party. It doesn’t mean that I don’t like to go out and have fun or spend time with my nieces and nephews. I’m a teacher so I’m around kids all the time, and I love it, but I love my alone time too. I am definitely an introvert, but I’m not antisocial.

    I have plenty of friends who have kids who are introverted and like a lot of quiet and as a result their kids drive them nuts. My own mother is a total introvert who wanted silence and order but had three kids. What a joy that was….

    I think, like everything else, it just comes down to individual choice and personality. When people deviate from the norm, there’s always someone who wants to theorize and try to explain it. In actuality, we live in a society where people are allowed to make choices for themselves and for a growing number of people, children are not an attractive option. There is no one definitive reason. It doesn’t make them weird or abnormal, its not because they are extroverted or introverted, its not because they came from happy homes or unhappy homes…they just don’t want kids. Period. For whatever reason, they have weighed the supposed rewards with the hassle and said ‘no thanks!’ People who want kids are as varied as heck, so why wouldn’t childfree people be the same? It’s all just hooey, and someone is making it more complicated than it needs to be.

    1. Karla, I hear what you are saying–I suppose the social psychologist in me just remains curious about the personality that not only chooses not to raise children but is willing to go against the tide amongst other things that go along with the choice. I do see introverts and extrovert childfree people as well, and have not seen a real trend one way or another in my personal experience but there are many who hypothesize we tend to be more one “type” than another–just find it intriguing!

  4. There’s nothing wrong with being intrigued….I just find that people tend to over think things. If it helps people to better understand themselves and why they make the choices they make, then outstanding. I think that it could be interesting if we broadened the scope a bit, but I generally think that people do what people do because they are people. In other words, its complicated. There doesn’t seem to be one ‘catch all’ for CF people. Maybe the majority lean more to one side than the other, who knows, but I’m sure that could be said for a whole host of things. I don’t want us all grouped under one heading of ‘introverted’ because that’s a term that many take to mean ‘antisocial’, which perpetuates the idea that CF are all a bunch of selfish weirdos. We are people, just like parents are…we just took the road less traveled by.

  5. I am mostly an introvert although I have my moments being an extrovert, but not enough I would not consider myself an “ambivert.”

    Because a big reason we childfree choose this lifestyle choice is we like peace and quiet, I would tend to agree that childfree people will greatly sway towards being introverts.

    1. Cain has a whole section on whether we are “born” with the introversion/extroversion temperament or not. Like Karla’s point, it’s complicated, but there is interesting research on “stimulation” preferences we see even in babies. Many introverted childfree talk about your point Deegee re liking peace and quiet (not the high end of the stimulation continuum)…

  6. As an introvert I may be biased, but I suspect that introverts are a little more likely to be childfree than extraverts are, but realistically this is probably not a very useful generalization even if true. It’s probably one of those things where introverts are only 10% more likely than extroverts are to be childfree, so not much predictability there.

    Presumably the biggest difference would be in the _reasons_ for being childfree, not so much the percentages of them that are childfree. Introverts and extraverts would just have different reasons for the choice.

    I’m guessing an extravert might say that being childfree allows someone to meet more people, do more exciting things with other people, not be stuck isolated at home with a kid, etc. Meanwhile, an introvert would probably say more about having peace and quiet, having alone time, being independent of other people, etc.

    And, of course, there’s no reason someone can’t have all those reasons at once.

    Good point about the multiple definitions of introvert. We should always add “and by introvert, I mean_______.”

  7. P.S. A similar question. I don’t mean it to be snarky, but it may sound like it.

    Are there people who have children BECAUSE they are introverts? Or is it usually DESPITE being an introvert?

  8. According to that questionnaire I;m most definitely an introvert (but I already knew that!). It sort of makes sense why I would be CF since I really value peace and quiet, hate chaos, really love my alone time, avoid large groups of ppl and get togethers with more than one person (cant even imagine myself having to setup a playdate, I guess my kid would never leave the house!), love to read, garden and other “alone” activities. Husband is also an introvert and we make sure to give each other “alone time” and he too would hate to have to give up his personal activities/hobbies for raising children. In general I think if someone told me that most CF ppl are introverts I wouldn’t at all be surprised, it really is a personality style that favors a focus on ones-self.

  9. I’m an ambivert.At school and when I’m with friends, I’m an extrovert I love to talk. I just can’t stop myself. Talking is what I’m good at.One day -at 4am- I was at my cousins. I watched a movie, stayed up late and once it finished I went to bed.My cousin just came back home from a party and wasn’t sleepy. I’d been laying down for about an hour and was almost sleeping and since she wanted to talk, I talked, listened and talked some more even though I was EXHAUSTED!But if I get to chose between staying home alone or going to a party/going shopping/ going anywhere where there’s a lot of people, I’ll choose staying home. Always. I do not like being among a lot of people, but if I get stuck with it, I make the most of it =)

  10. Somewhere on the introvert side of ambivert, I guess – my job (as a coach and therapist) requires me to present myself as a confident professional in a leadership position, which requires extroverted tendencies, but in my ‘home life’, I am very much an introvert who requires solitude, quiet and harmony. CF by choice and to be honest, the idea of a house full of small children would be my own personal hell.

    Apparently, I was that way even as a small child and got very upset and stressed out by highly stimulating activities – I was the child who would be found quietly reading a book by themselves at parties and have never particularly enjoyed being fussed or fondled, in spite of having a very extroverted, gregarious and social mother. Perhaps personality types are a case of nature over nurture?

    However, I don’t particularly like society’s desire to label any and all slightly atypical behaviour, so I must confess I am against the idea of testing for a CF personality ‘type’. Wouldn’t life be dull if we were all alike?

  11. I think it can go either way. It’s probably more likely that you hear/see about the extraverted ones. For my peers, alcohol seems to be a big focus; they are constantly partying, going out to wine/beer tastings, etc. That could also be because most of my cohort hasn’t hit the 30s yet.

    I do know of quite a few introverts that have kids. I’ve noticed that these are the ones that put a lot more emphasis on reading for pleasure and talking about serious issues in the world. If more introverts are going childfree, I wonder if it will be a trait that is mostly breed out.

    1. I know there is some hypothesizing that the childfree are more likely to be introverts, but I must say I have interacted with Many that are extroverts…!

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