Recent Research on Childlessness in Australia

Dr. Bronwyn Harman, psychology and social science professor at Perth’s Edith Cowan University conducted a survey of women with no children in Australia, specifically looking at why they chose not to have children. Here are highlights of what she found:

Her research summary, Childlessness in Australia, indicates that 330 women were surveyed: 250 were voluntarily childless (she uses this term instead of childfree because it is termed this in the research literature)  and 80 were involuntarily childless.

Of the 250 who reported being voluntarily childless:

–30% said they might have children later.  In her talk about this research she mentions that this 30% were mostly in their 20s.

–28% said they were not maternal

–16% thought that having children would “ruin their lifestyle”

–8% indicated a desire to concentrate on their career

–8% thought it is a “bad world” to bring children into

–7% said they actively disliked children

–2% cited medical/genetic reasons

–1% said having children was unaffordable

A few things strike me.  A good percentage of those who describe themselves as voluntarily childless seem to be aka “temporarily childless” or in the undecided zone.  This seems to point to how the 20s can be a time when women are in the midst of their motherhood decision process.

Almost an equal percentage describe themselves as not maternal. This lines up with a major reason I have found women decide not to have children – they simply lack the desire to become a parent, and in this case, become a mother.  I also wonder – what percentage of those who thought they might have them later also described themselves as non-maternal – and did they think the latter would change over time?

I like seeing the 7% who say they just don’t like kids. This points to the idea that the childfree don’t like kids is, pure and simple, a myth. Some would not say children are not their favorite thing, but many childfree like kids, even choose careers that revolve around kids.

I am a bit surprised that the unaffordable factor has such a low percentage – I have seen a good deal of research that points to one of the biggest reasons people are not having children, waiting to have them, or not having another child as boiling down to financial concerns.

Regarding the 80 who described themselves as involuntarily childless, a couple of percentages popped out for me:

–the largest percentage, 42.5%, said it was because they were infertile/unable to carry a baby

–7% were with a partner who did not want children

–6% said they “left it too late.” By this I believe Harman means – they waited too long, and for one reason or another ended up childless.

Most in this group seemed like they wanted them and had tried to have them. Of the 42.5 % – I wonder if most got to this place as a result of IVF or the like?  Or how many concluded this in other ways?

Not a high percentage seemed to be dealing with the tough situation of wanting a child but their partner does not.  I like seeing these kinds of numbers. For those it does relate to, it is a situation I don’t wish on anyone, as it is a hard one to resolve, if one partner sees parenthood as the only answer to having children in his/her life. It is  so important to really hash this out before embarking on a life together!

And those who left it until it was “too late” – I am left wondering what does that specifically mean, as in how did they get to “too late”? And ho might it intersect with the 42.5% who reported they were infertile?

When you read Harman’s survey summary, what sticks out for you? What questions are you left with?

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2 thoughts on “Recent Research on Childlessness in Australia

  1. Very interesting data. A VERY tiny sample size, though. 330 total out of how many million Australian women? Gotta start somewhere, I guess.

    1. Not as small of a sample size as some studies…she is an academic, so I would venture to guess that the research has minimum levels of research rigor when it comes to reliability and validity.

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