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Objective: This study aims to explore the experience of childless men and the desire for fatherhood. Background: There is little research exploring the desire for fatherhood, with most studies concentrating on couples in infertility treatment. Of those, the majority focus on the women’s experience, a factor that may reflect the gender stereotype and cultural identification of childlessness to women. Methods: A qualitative approach was adopted. A convenience sample of 10 biologically childless men were recruited through the snowball method and interviewed individually. The interviews were transcribed verbatim and transcripts were then analysed using Grounded Theory. Results: A core category, ‘Lifescape’s of childless men: enduring anticipation and expectation in an uncharted world’, divided into three meta themes: Emotive Forces, Extant Agency, and Life Course. The desire for parenthood appeared to peak in the 30s, gradually reduced, but did not cease. The participants also revealed a sense of ‘outsiderness’ in familial, social, and work relationships. Conclusion: Involuntarily childless men reported similar experiences to those in, or who have had, infertility treatment. These included a sense of loss, depression, exclusion, isolation, and risk-taking behaviour. Over the life course the men also found ways to adapt and reappraise their beliefs concerning themselves emotionally, psychologically and socially. To help understand this process, gender-role therapy is presented as a possible approach for working with childless men.
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Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology
Vol. 29, No. 1, February 2011, 56–68
ISSN 0264-6838 print/ISSN 1469-672X online
© 2011 Society for Reproductive and Infant Psychology
DOI: 10.1080/02646838.2010.544294
Involuntarily childless men and the desire for fatherhood
Robin Hadleya* and Terry Hanleyb
aResearch Institute for Life Course Studies, Keele University, Keele, UK;
bSchool of Education, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK
Taylor and FrancisCJRI_A_544294.sgm (Received 9 September 2009; final version received 29 November 2010)
10.1080/02646838.2010.544294Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology0264-6838 (print)/1469-672X (online)Original Article2010Taylor & Francis0000000002010Mr.
Objective: This study aims to explore the experience of childless men and the
desire for fatherhood. Background: There is little research exploring the desire
for fatherhood, with most studies concentrating on couples in infertility treatment.
Of those, the majority focus on the women’s experience, a factor that may reflect
the gender stereotype and cultural identification of childlessness to women.
Methods: A qualitative approach was adopted. A convenience sample of 10
biologically childless men were recruited through the snowball method and
interviewed individually. The interviews were transcribed verbatim and transcripts
were then analysed using Grounded Theory. Results: A core category,
‘Lifescape’s of childless men: enduring anticipation and expectation in an
uncharted world’, divided into three meta themes: Emotive Forces, Extant
Agency, and Life Course. The desire for parenthood appeared to peak in the 30s,
gradually reduced, but did not cease. The participants also revealed a sense of
‘outsiderness’ in familial, social, and work relationships. Conclusion:
Involuntarily childless men reported similar experiences to those in, or who have
had, infertility treatment. These included a sense of loss, depression, exclusion,
isolation, and risk-taking behaviour. Over the life course the men also found ways
to adapt and reappraise their beliefs concerning themselves emotionally,
psychologically and socially. To help understand this process, gender-role therapy
is presented as a possible approach for working with childless men.
Keywords: involuntary childlessness; psychosocial factors; mental health;
interviews; qualitative methods
Many nations are now studying the demographic trend of ageing populations caused
by falling fertility and mortality rates (United Nations, 2009). A constellation of
circumstances such as leaving home, forming relationships, time in education, and
employment, contribute to childlessness (Hagestad & Call, 2007; Parr, 2007). For
example, the highly educated and the children of fathers in professional positions,
have a greater chance of being childless (Simpson, 2006). In Britain, demographic
studies indicate an increase in the number of solo living men, and an increasing birth
rate in women aged over 30 (Smith, Wasoff, & Jamieson, 2005). Bearing in mind the
lack of material on male childlessness, this study aims to focus on the experience of
involuntarily childless men.
Having a child is viewed as a natural progression for the majority of people and
seen as part of the life cycle (Daniluk, 2001). Parenting is mostly associated with
*Corresponding author. Email:
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Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology 57
women, as is childlessness. Childlessness in women elicits a range of responses from
sympathy to privileged freedom (Dalzell, 2007). Furthermore, as fewer men become
fathers (Dermott, 2008), research indicates that childlessness is more acceptable to
women than men (Koropeckyj-Cox & Pendell, 2007). An estimated one in six couples
at some point suffers from infertility (Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority,
2009). The diagnosis of actual or potential infertility has been shown to have consid-
erable implications for well-being (Bartlam, 2004). However, exact figures for the
involuntarily childless are difficult to obtain since many people do not seek treatment.
Additionally, the majority of international and national fertility data indicators are
applied solely to females (Dykstra & Keizer, 2009).
Throsby and Gill (2004) noted the growing volume of literature exploring father-
hood. Early research reported that fatherhood was viewed as natural, being the logical
progression of a relationship. Children completed a family, provided later-life
companionship, and was regarded as enhancing/maintaining status (Mason, 1993;
Owens, 1982). More recent research has examined nurturing/caring roles and the ‘new
man’ (Lee, 2010). Most studies on the distress of childlessness concentrate on couples
in pre- or post-infertility diagnosis and have often focused on the women’s experience
(Daniluk, 2001; Glover, McLellan, & Weaver, 2009). Mahlstedt (1985) reported that
health professionals should be aware that couples in infertility treatment suffered from
depression, stress, guilt, shame, anger, and loss of self-esteem. Webb and Daniluk
(1999) reported that pre-diagnosed infertile men felt a pressure from society, family
and friends to father children. On being diagnosed as infertile, emotional reactions
encompassed grief, inadequacy, isolation, betrayal, and humiliation, affects surely
pertinent to men not undergoing fertility treatment. Proposing that infertile men’s
reactions are indicative of masculinity proved by virility, Throsby and Gill (2004) also
highlighted the paucity of material on not being a father. Dykstra and Keizer (2009)
stress that childless men are generally excluded from the work on the psycho-social
effects of involuntary childlessness.
Dykstra and Hagestad (2007) suggest that childless men and women are at increased
risk of morbidity, mortality, isolation, and exclusion. Likewise, the Kendig, Dykstra,
van Gaalen and Melkas (2007) tri-country study of survey data reported links between
the elderly childless and poor health behaviour. They noted that, when compared to
men with partners, formerly married childless men’s behaviour included excessive
smoking and drinking, worse physical health, depression and sleeping difficulties.
Dykstra and Keizer (2009) found that, compared to childless single men aged 45–59,
those men in relationships were better off psychologically and socio-economically.
Furthermore, a Swedish quantitative analysis of official records compared male family
situations and premature mortality (Weitoft, Burström, & Rosén, 2004). Results indi-
cated that both lone non-custodial fathers and lone childless men were at increased risk
of death through suicide, addiction, injury, external violence, poisoning, lung and heart
The majority of infertility studies reported that women were more likely to take
part in research and found to be more distressed, depressed and feel more socially
isolated than men (Jordan & Revenson, 1999). Furthermore, Bartlam and Woolfe
(1998) noted the involuntarily childless adults’ reported feelings of isolation and
disregard from both family and wider society. More recent research suggests that men
undergoing infertility treatment experience similar levels of distress to women
(Peronace, Boivin, & Schmidt, 2007). Dudgeon and Inhorn (2003) highlighted anthro-
pological studies that indicated that infertile men were viewed as ineffective and
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58 R. Hadley and T. Hanley
weak. Fisher, Baker and Hammarberg (2010) warned of an inaccurate clinical view
that infertile men are less distressed and more accepting of childlessness than women,
while Malik and Coulson’s (2008) analysis of online infertility bulletin boards found
that the anonymity led men to express a wide range of difficulties and emotions.
There is a large quantity of literature regarding infertility and childlessness, with
very little on men’s desire for fatherhood. Existing research is mostly derived from
studies linked to couples in infertility treatment or expectant fathers. It also indicates
numerous stressors interlinked with being childless and the distinct health risks and
societal disadvantages associated with it. The aim of this study was therefore to
explore the issues surrounding being a childless man and the desire for fatherhood.
Here, fatherhood is defined as the beliefs, wants, needs, emotions, fantasy, values, and
the cultural and social norms associated with being a biological father.
A qualitative approach was used in this study to generate rich information about the
experiences of childless men. A Grounded Theory approach was adopted, an inductive
process employing a progressive systematic and creative analysis to generate a theory
(Bryant & Charmaz, 2007). The ‘emergent’ concept of the method suited the lack of
available data, the need to collect rich data, and the skills of the primary researcher.
As the theory is ‘grounded in’ the data, the stories of the participant’s are heard, giving
insight and understanding into their lived reality (McLeod, 2006).
The difficulty in recruiting men willing to engage in research of this nature had been
cited by a number of researchers (Throsby & Gill, 2004). Therefore, a convenience
sample was used in the selection of participants. The distinction of ‘biological child-
less’ was specified in order to include those who occupy, or had occupied, the role of
social father. Recruitment used a snowball strategy via 30 flyers posted in counselling,
university and retail locations, emails to 300 addresses on the School of Education’s
database. In addition, an advertisement was placed in Therapy Today the profes-
sional journal for counsellors and psychotherapists.
Ten respondents were individually contacted and their status as biologically child-
less men confirmed. All participants in this study were white, aged between 33 and
60+, and employed. None identified themselves as disabled. Six were in relationships
and four were not. Two identified themselves as stepfathers.
Design and procedure
The study gained university ethics approval and the also adhered to the ethical guide-
lines of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (Bond, 2004).
Informed consent was obtained and pseudonyms used to protect the identity of the
participants, with any identifying details relating to places or persons removed or
disguised. Each participant was offered a copy of their transcript, and invited to make
any changes or withdraw all or part of it – ‘member checking’ (McLeod, 2006). One
respondent declined his copy, while the remainder accepted theirs. No requests for
changes or withdrawals were received.
Due to the sensitive nature of the study, individual face-to-face semi-structured
interviews were conducted (Figure 1). This approach provided a safe space for
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Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology 59
individuals to talk about their experiences (Patton, 2002). Additionally, it proved to be
a flexible method that enabled the participants’ perspective of childlessness to be
revealed (Kvale, 1996). Interviews were held at locations convenient for the partici-
pants. Interview questions were open-ended and topics covered included: life-stage
awareness of fatherhood; meaning of fatherhood; feelings surrounding fatherhood;
past, present and future familial, close, and social relationships; advantages and disad-
vantages of childlessness; societal ‘fit’; mental and physical health; and feelings of
‘broodiness’. All the interviews were audio recorded and lasted between 34 and 74 min.
Figure 1. Semi-structured interview questions.
Data analysis
The interviews were transcribed, and analysed directly after each interviewee had
approved the transcription. This enabled the researcher to use emergent themes to
provide focus for each subsequent interview (McLeod, 2006). The analysis consisted
of progressively coding the text into meaning units that were then assigned to a category
(Rennie, 2006; Rennie, Phillips, & Quartaro, 1998). Emerging meanings were inter-
preted and either fitted into existing categories or new categories formed. These were
examined, and the concepts and themes abducted into higher order ‘main’ categories
(Charmaz, 2006). These categories were then subjected to ‘axial coding’ (Strauss &
Corbin, 1998). This technique explores the relationships between codes, categories, and
main categories in an attempt to identify a central ‘core category’ that is integral to the
theory. The core category supplied a theoretical frame through which the essence of
the experience of these involuntary childless men may be viewed (McLeod, 2006).
Figure 1. Semi-structured interview questions.
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60 R. Hadley and T. Hanley
Illustrative comments are supplied to give a sense of the participants’ experience.
Inclusion of excerpts of interviews, description of the coding process, member check-
ing, and a table of the themes (Table 1) aid validity in qualitative research, and are
used in this study (Yardley, 2008).
The units and categories were classified and grouped to form a theoretical framework
comprising of a single core category and five main categories. The core category of
‘Lifescape’s of childless men: enduring anticipation and expectation in an uncharted
world’ was identified and is integral to each of the categories that follow. It is divided
into three meta themes: Emotive Forces, Extant Agency, and Life Course Stages that
resonate throughout the main categories.
The main categories elicited were: Consequences of Childlessness, Ideation,
Relationships, Socio-environmental, and Health. Table 1 gives an overview of the
categories and meanings extracted from the data – the numbers indicate the number of
times each meaning unit occurred. Due to space limitations, the following section
focuses on the meta themes.
Core category: Lifescape’s of childless men: enduring anticipation and expectation
in an uncharted world
The participants expressed a range of responses around the issue of childlessness and
the desire to be a father. Most of the participants gave the impression of a struggle
between the fantasy and reality surrounding fatherhood: the ideal of becoming a father
(emotive force) and social intentionality (extant agency).
Table 1. Core and main categories.
Core category. Lifescapes of childless men: enduring anticipation and
expectation in an uncharted world.
1.1: Emotive Forces:
1.2: Extant Agency:
1.3: Life Course Stages:
1. Consequences of childlessness.
1.1: Internal process:
1.2: Peers:
1.3: Discrimination:
4. Socio-environmental.
4.1: Socio-cultural:
4.2: Environmental:
2. Ideation.
2.1: Fatherhood:
2.2: Children:
2.3: Own childhood:
5. Health.
6.1: Mental well-being:
6.2: Physical well-being:
6.3: Partner:
3. Relationships.
3.1: Family:
3.2: Partner:
3.3: Relationship issues:
3.4: Stepfather:
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Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology 61
Emotive forces
This element of the core category reflects the strength of the emotion the participants
revealed concerning fatherhood. The theme refers to the internal energies that reflect
the emotional and physical desire to be a parent: behaviours, urges, feelings, thoughts,
and biological/genetic drive (Langdridge, Sheeran, & Connolly, 2005). It also encap-
sulates the norms and conventions that are absorbed from familial, cultural, and soci-
etal environments. Two examples of how the elements of the emotive force are
demonstrated by P1 and P5:
P1: I’ve got a biological need to do it; I’ve got a religious belief to do it.
P5: I really do want my own children … I wanted that more than I wanted a
marriage …
P1 combines both genetic drive and cultural elements to support his quest for parent-
hood. For P5, the urge for fatherhood was greater than the societal norms he associ-
ated with marriage. The desire for children revealed the range of emotions that men
feel concerning fatherhood, from nothing to a physical yearning:
P9: But I’ve never had any … never felt broody in my life
P2: I really do need to have these children
The latter may be seen as the drive of the bio/genetic dynamic. The other reactions to
childlessness and an unfulfilled bio-drive included hurt, loss, and regret:
P5: I felt the pain of it, emotionally there was a real gut feeling that, you know,
arghh … that I’m not the father of my own children.
P2: grieving for those that were never born … which is a paradox.
Although P9 and his partner decided against having children, they did consider trying
for children in their late 30s:
We thought that we’d better have a think about this because we may not have much
longer if we do decide to go down this line.
Here, life stage, rather than emotive force or extant agency, was the stronger motiva-
tor. This highlights the interactions and tensions between life stage, emotive force, and
extant agency.
Extant agency
This agency describes the capacity to consciously act and fulfil socially accepted
roles, e.g. what is legal, acceptable behaviour, etc. Following a severe illness at age
32, P7 decided he lacked the physical strength to fulfil the role of a father but still had
the drive to be a biological father. The participant attempted to fulfil both the societal
norms set in the experience of his childhood and his bio-drive:
… I’d always assumed I’d become a Dad.
I was thirty-three … A lesbian couple wanted children. I said fine, you know, I’ll donate
my sperm … they said they wanted the parents to be involved. I said no, I wouldn’t want
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62 R. Hadley and T. Hanley
This demonstrates the participant’s attempt to chart a route incorporating the bio-drive
(emotive force) and fulfil the status and societal norms, as he understood them (extant
This connects to one of the main categories: health, indicating that both mental and
physical issues had a range of effects on the participants’ desire to be a father. All
participants had suffered from depression, a widespread mental health issue associated
with loss, low mood, lack of interest or joy, guilty feelings, and low self-worth
(Fennell, 1989). Eight of the participants declared that childlessness was a feature in
their depression to a lesser or greater extent:
P1: I was very, very depressed last year, suicidal …
The majority of participants disclosed behaviours that they attributed to childlessness.
These included alcohol abuse, gambling addiction, withdrawal from intimacy, and
difficulty forming relationships. However, some participants acknowledged that lack
of parenthood had enabled flexibility in career, finance, and leisure activities.
P8: I did have quite a serious alcohol problem.
P2: The advantages were you had choices … you had probably more surplus income in
certain respects, so there was a quality of life that we’d achieve that others wouldn’t
have managed in the same way.
The participant’s awareness of how others perceived and responded to their childless-
ness evoked a wide range of reactions through acceptance, exclusion, envy, isolation,
and mistrust:
P5: I mean as I am now, I feel pretty reconciled to it.
P7: I don’t feel excluded – I am excluded from it.
Single, older men highlighted a hierarchical social system around those who do not fit
into the social hegemonic norms (Robertson, 2007):
P5: It isolated me from my peers to an extent that’s because (A) I wasn’t married and
(B) I didn’t have children.
Although there is a change from the overt anticipation of fatherhood (emotive force)
between the older and younger participants, for the latter there was an indication of
latent pressure to fulfil the patriarchal norm (extant agency):
P4: your friends and family … who wind you up, you know saying, ‘So when are
you going to settle down anyway?’
Some participants felt their childless state led to negative discrimination in both work
and family environments.
P5: … families can just assume that you will, you can just muck in and join in and enter
into their world – they don’t want to enter into yours.
The social world each participant occupied demanded each to construct his own
pathway in that world. Social difference magnified their childless state and had to be
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Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology 63
rationalised or their social world adapted. Furthermore, the resolution of internal and
external demands of the emotive force and extant agency are intrinsically related to
Life course stages
The life stage of the participant interacts and reflects internal motives and the external
dynamic. Here the interaction between an individual’s behaviour and social structures
are contextualised by the timing of events, for example the ending of a relationship.
There is a difference in attitude between the older and younger participants. The
former indicated a normative belief that life paths of career, marriage, and children
were expected:
P2: There was an assumption … we’d be growing together and setting up home and
children would be part of that package.
With one exception, the men showed no wish for fatherhood in their early and teenage
P3: It wasn’t something that even entered my head in my teenage years and getting to
late teens.
However, towards their late 20s, socioeconomic indicators were highlighted as being
important in the decision to start a family:
P2: We were in a position where, financially we wanted to start trying for having
The 30s show the most dramatic rise in desire for fatherhood. Factors that could
account for this peak include: age of their partner, health, and awareness of their abil-
ity to interact with children later in life:
P1: you’re young enough to enjoy it before you’re an old codger …
For the younger participants there was no explicit mandate concerning career,
marriage and children:
P4: We were never really forced into anything … not that kind of ‘you need to get a job,
you need to get married.’
The participants noted a sense of difference and, over time, a sense of estrangement:
P8: Their lives changed and mine didn’t with them, and it created a little bit not a
barrier so much as a division.
P3: I felt the odd one out, I felt a bit of a loser … I felt inadequate …
The older participants demonstrated a gradual decline in the desire for fatherhood,
ranging from a wistful regret to acceptance. P2 indicated an on-going process of toler-
ating his childlessness:
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64 R. Hadley and T. Hanley
… so it’s almost got a stage where – of acceptance and then beyond that acceptance, then
making sense of why it was the way it was how it felt the way it did.
The examination of the participants lives led to a chronological charting of events and
choices made. The life stage of the participant determines and stimulates emotive
forces and extant agency. This can be seen in the change of perspective as the men
age: from the expectation and anticipation of becoming a parent to wistfulness at not
being a father and, for some, a grudging concession to their childless state.
As the study progressed it became apparent that a change in attitude to the partic-
ipant’s childlessness was concomitant with their age. This indicates an age-related
transition, from the younger participants who were mainly idealistic, yet also fearful
of the unknown, through to those who were more regretful of an opportunity denied
or not utilised.
The findings show a range of individual and unique responses, beliefs, feelings, and
actions that guided and shaped each participant’s uncharted lifescape. The lack of
direct research on men’s desire for children, and the issues surrounding childless men,
led to the examination of the related fields of fatherhood and infertility treatment. The
changing criteria for each man were directly related to their life stage; younger men
were aware of the unknown but feared responsibility, the older ones regretful of an
opportunity denied or not utilised. The one participant who had no desire for father-
hood, investigated whether he (and his partner) should try for children because of their
ages. In conjunction with the emotive forces and the extant agency, the life stages of
the participants shaped the idiosyncratic landscape of these men’s lives. Thus the
components of the core category both energise and are integral to the dynamics
between the main categories.
The participants indicated the strong influence of family and cultural expectation,
similarly pre-diagnosed infertile men felt pressure to father children from society,
family and friends (Webb & Daniluk, 1999). Infertile men reported that unsuccessful
treatment led to worsening mental health, decreased social support and increased
negative stress and physical responses (Peronace et al., 2007). Men in treatment were
most distressed by the continuing involuntarily childlessness. This may reflect the
value placed on virility proved by fertility (Dudgeon & Inhorn, 2003). The expecta-
tions of family, culture and religion may be seen as latent forms and methods of rein-
forcing and maintaining patriarchal hegemonic masculinities (Connell, 1995).
There was evidence of a sense of bereavement for some of the participants. The
two who had been stepfathers, and enjoyed that role, still felt the loss of not being a
biological father. This parallels findings that childless couples who adopted describe
having greater life satisfaction compared to those who did not (Daniluk, 2001).
Furthermore, P1’s reaction to separating from his partner, and thereby losing his role
as stepfather and his opportunity for biological fatherhood, followed Schmidt’s (2006)
findings of low relationship satisfaction and a depressive episode. Of the men who
were over 60, P2’s and P5’s acceptance of their childless state contrasted with P6’s
continuing sadness at not being a father. This reflects research that indicated childless
men, who had not adopted children, reported a need to reframe their identity and posi-
tion in society (Webb & Daniluk, 1999). Lechner, Bolman, and van Dalen (2007)
suggest the distress of involuntary childlessness due to infertility declines, but the loss
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Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology 65
may last a lifetime. Most studies report the effect of infertility on relationships;
however, the nature of the research excludes single men whose own familial condi-
tions may have affected their perception of relationships and themselves as potential
The majority of the participants felt a gap, a difference in both familial and social
worlds: being watched when interacting with children, having to explain that they did
not have children, and with some believing their childlessness affected their work-
place interactions and career opportunities. Similar issues were described by research
into infertile men and by childless gay men (Bartlam & Woolfe, 1998; Dalzell, 2007).
This indicated a possible form of institutionalised latent discrimination and pointed
towards the use of difference in forming and maintaining hierarchal power relations
between familial, social and wider social settings (Connell, 1995). Males in non-tradi-
tional roles such as house husbands, and primary school teachers are often subject to
alienation, discrimination, isolation and suspicion (Brescoll & Uhlman, 2005;
Sargent, 2001). Consequently, men who do not achieve the cultural values of father-
hood may compensate by acting in more explicitly masculine ways or become
‘liminal’ – less visible and with less voice (Hudson & Morgan, 2000; Ribbens &
Edwards, 1998). This may reflect the active and passive coping styles demonstrated
by infertile couples (Lechner et al., 2007).
The findings show that childless men may share many similar experiences to those
in or who have had infertility treatment. These included a sense of loss, depression,
isolation, risk-taking behaviours, and exclusion. The response to life course events,
and life stages, shaped the course of the men’s feelings, thoughts and actions. Over the
life course it appears the desire for fatherhood had peaked in the 30s and reduced with
age, but did not cease. For the participants this desire was either, or both, emotive or
extant in origin.
There are a number of potential methodological limitations to the study. The sample
does not include anyone aged between 16 and 33 and this points towards the popula-
tion of involuntarily childless men who were not accessed. Therefore, there may be a
bias in the retrospective viewpoint of participants early adulthood. In addition, the
societal norms and expectations that young childless male adults experience are not
represented. Only one of the interviewees had not had some form of psychotherapy,
which may reflect the method of recruitment, which was centred on counselling
networks. Thus the majority of the participants’ were familiar with self-disclosure.
The lack of literature and research on involuntarily childless men and the issues
surrounding the desire for fatherhood has implications for counsellors. The challenge
is for counsellors to recognise that the effect of childlessness is unique to the individ-
ual men, and shapes their interactions on many levels. One possible therapeutic direc-
tion is offered by use of gender-role therapy. Gender-role socialisation is the
acquisition of cultural and social attitudes, behaviours and values that is promoted as
appropriate for a particular biological sex (Nelson-Jones, 2006). In the West, the hege-
monic masculine ideology is typically associated with symbolic roles of supremacy
and dominance that control and retain power. These included being: virile, brave,
breadwinner, rational, objective, and macho. These are associated with behaviours
such as being emotionally distant, objectivity, and controlling (Lee, 2003). Gender-
role therapy follows similar goals as feminist therapy. By taking a socio-cultural
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66 R. Hadley and T. Hanley
perspective, the client becomes aware of the dominant cultural messages and the
process of gender socialisation. Techniques include the examination of defences and
anxieties, stereotypical gender-role behaviour and internalised beliefs, and recognis-
ing issues surrounding power and control. A crucial aspect of this approach for the
counselling of childless men is the therapist’s knowledge of ‘complicated bereave-
ment’ (Lechner et al., 2007, p. 1), self-awareness, power issues, preconceptions,
stereotypes, and reactions to men who do not fit the ‘norm’ (Nelson-Jones, 2006).
Research has shown that men have the same emotional experience as women, but have
limited resource to access, and verbally express, their feelings (Wong & Rochlen,
2005). Therefore, the initial use of a cognitive approach rather than a focus on
emotions and the use of alternative forms of expression such as art and creative writ-
ing may aid therapy.
Further exploration of childless men who yearn to be a father would provide
invaluable insights into experience of male involuntary childlessness, its effects on
day-to-day life, mental health, behaviour and social identity. Recruiting participants
in hard to access groups has been noted as difficult; therefore, a pragmatic approach
to recruitment is recommended. A combination of methods such as websites,
message board and discussion groups, email, and postal strategies may need to be
considered. For example, online interviews form both a basis for discussion and
‘member check’ of results (Hanley, 2005). Feedback from a recent online survey
indicated that email was the preferred form of communication for most male respon-
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... Seemingly, emotional and psychological reactions to infertility encompass depression, sense of worthlessness, anger, stress, resentment, anxiety, low self-esteem, and negative identity at individual level (Hadley & Hanley, 2011). Elevated number of symptoms of stress and depression were reported among infertile women (35.44 %) as compared to the fertile ones (19.47 %) (Drosdzol & Skrzypulec, 2009). ...
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Infertility is a reproductive health problem that is widely researched with reference to numerous psychological concerns faced by infertile individuals. Childless couples face numerous personal and social consequences with every passing day. Among them, immediate family members' expectations to carry on the family's name significantly weigh down marital union in the form of marital dissatisfaction among infertile individuals. Therefore, the relationship between stress related to infertility and its impact on the marital union, individuals (N = 150) of 18-40 years (M = 29.19, SD = 5.59) were taken from Rawalpindi, Islamabad, and Attock. The sample was approached at infertility centers, hospitals, offices, and their homes using snowball and purposive sampling techniques. Fertility Problem Inventory (FPI) and ENRICH Marital Satisfaction (EMS) Scale was administered on the sample. The results established satisfactory Cronbach alpha reliabilities (α = .63 to α = .93) for all scales. Hypotheses testing revealed that stress due to infertility negatively affects the marital satisfaction of infertile individuals and accounted for a 7% variance. Lastly, non-significant gender differences were observed across the variables of the study. These findings would be helpful in understanding the dynamics of stress, faced by childless individuals and would be beneficial in the investigation of cultural buffering factors. Non-significant gender differences across infertility-related stress further highlight the significance of devising and providing intervention-based programs and therapies for both men and women to cope with the stress and strengthen the marital union of infertile individuals.
... The study results of Hadley and Hanley (2011), conducted on wives who have not had children for three years, found that the majority of research subjects (62% of respondents) had negative assessments toward their marriages and had tendency to be unhappy because of having no children in marriage. Having no child does not only affect the marital satisfaction felt by the wife, but men who are convicted with infertility also exhibit the same reactions, such as loss, depression, exclusion, isolation, and other problematic behavior. ...
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Marital satisfaction is one of the most important factors for achieving a happy family. This study aimed to examine the relationship between gratitude and marital satisfaction in infertile spouses . This study involves 44 samples of spouses who have been married for at least one year and have not had children in Kediri, East Java. The research was conducted by using convenience sampling technique. The data collection techniques used in this study were questionnaires in the form of scales. There were two types of scales used in the data collection process: the scale of marital satisfaction and the scale of gratitude. The data were analyzed by using correlation technique. Based on the results of the analysis, it was found that gratitude had a positive correlation with marital satisfaction with r = 0, 489; p = 0,001 meaning that the higher the gratitude of an infertile couple, the higher their marital satisfaction is.
... Particularly involuntarily childless adults, and women especially (Lechner et al., 2007), face substantial deficits in their SWB due to intense emotions and feelings of anxiety, grief, depression, exclusion, isolation and disrupted identities (e.g. Koert & Daniluk, 2017), although coping and adaptation may have a positive effect on SWB for these individuals throughout their life course (Hadley & Hanley, 2011). Men, on the other hand, most often remain circumstantially childless because of low SES and celibacy (e.g. ...
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Childlessness and socio‐economic well‐being interact dynamically throughout the life course, possibly resulting in an accumulation of socio‐economic (dis)advantage. Methods commonly used to investigate this hypothesis are unable to simultaneously acknowledge that childlessness entails a heterogeneous and processual ‘non‐event’ which interrelates with multiple life domains. I use Bayesian multivariate hierarchical growth curve modelling to facilitate synchronous incorporation of these substantive complexities. I construct prospective interdependent life course trajectories of socio‐economic well‐being for eventual parents and permanently childless adults; distinguishing voluntary, involuntary, circumstantial and indecisive childlessness. Using 1970 British Cohort Study data, I find that parents and voluntarily childless adults are more satisfied with life than non‐voluntarily childless adults. Voluntarily and circumstantially childless women earn most and mothers least, while fathers outearn childless men. (Dis)advantage in economic and male subjective well‐being accumulates throughout the life course. Group differences in partnerships, employment, education and health, more than childbearing behaviours themselves, explain the (growth of) these socio‐economic differentials. The findings have implications for policies addressing socio‐economic inequalities by both parental status and gender. The proposed approach provides valuable for assessing cumulative (dis)advantage in interrelated life domains via an unclearly marked heterogeneous process, not only in the context of childlessness but also other life course topics.
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Введение. Увеличение распространенности вспомогательных репродуктивных технологий повышает исследовательский интерес к психологическим особенностям семей, зачавших ребенка с помощью экстракорпорального оплодотворения (ЭКО), как значимому фактору, определяющему его здоровье и благополучие. Однако имеющиеся данные разрозненны и противоречивы. Исследование направлено на выявление специфики и динамики супружеских, родительских отношений и психологического благополучия супругов, зачавших ребенка посредством ЭКО, в период ожидания ребенка и в его младенчестве. Методы. Выборку составили 250 семейных пар: 160 семей с естественным зачатием и 90 семей с индуцированной беременностью. Использован комплекс методик, направленный на диагностику супружеских, родительских отношений и аффективного компонента отношений родителей в период беременности и в младенческом возрасте ребенка. Результаты. На обоих этапах исследования выраженные значимые различия супружеских отношений между типами семей отсутствовали, тогда как родительские отношения в семьях с ЭКО характеризовались значимо более выраженным благополучием и свидетельствовали о высокой ценности родительства. В период беременности в каждой из групп выявлено 2 типа семей: в основной группе – «благополучие супружеских и родительских отношений» (58 %) и «супружеское неблагополучие при высокой ценности родительства» (42 %), в контрольной группе – «благополучие супружеских и родительских отношений» (67 %) и «супружеское и родительское неблагополучие» (33 %). Специфика типов семей сохранялась на протяжении младенческого возраста ребенка. Обсуждение результатов. Результаты свидетельствуют об отсутствии выраженной связи супружеских отношений с типом зачатия ребенка, обусловленности их динамики прохождением кризисного этапа жизненного цикла семьи, а не методом достижения беременности. Напротив, родительские отношения в семьях с ЭКО обладают спецификой, проявляющейся в их ценности и относительной независимости от других аспектов семейного функционирования. Полученные новые данные могут быть использованы в процессе психологического сопровождения семей, воспользовавшихся ЭКО.
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Grief is often thought of as an emotional response to the death of someone we love. However, the term “grief” is also used when referring to losses of various other kinds, as with grief over illness, injury, unemployment, diminished abilities, relationship breakups, or loss of significant personal possessions. In this paper, we address the question of what, if anything, the relevant experiences have in common. We argue that grief over a bereavement and other experiences of loss share a common phenomenological structure: one experiences the loss of certain possibilities that were integral to—and perhaps central to—the unfolding structure of one’s life. Grief can thus be conceived of in a broad but still univocal way. To develop this position, we focus on the example of grief over involuntary childlessness, where lack of a concrete, historical object of emotion serves to make explicit the way in which grief concerns future possibilities. We go on to suggest that the phenomenological complexity, diversity, and prevalence of grief are obscured when approached via an abstract, simplified conception of bereavement.
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While many scholars have noted workplace inequalities generated by the presence of pregnancy and parenthood, this paper shifts the focus to explore the question: how do childless subjects negotiate between work identities and desired identities of parenthood? Drawing from empirical research interviews about navigating complex fertility journeys alongside work and employment, we show how themes of pregnancy and parenthood play out in the form of (non‐)potential rather than actual achievement, and where identity threats arise paradoxically from both too close and too distant an association with the maternal body.
Purpose: The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of nursing care based on the Levine's Conservation Model on depression caused by infertility, fatigue, perceived social support, and sleep quality levels. Methods: This study includes randomized controlled trial that was conducted from July 2019 to April 2020, with 65 Turkish women with infertility (experimental group: 34, control group: 31). We collected data using the Visual Similarity Scale for Fatigue, the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, the Beck's Depression Inventory, and the Multidimensional Perceived Social Support Scale. The experimental group received nursing care based on the Levine's Conservation Model. Data were analyzed using t-tests and χ2 tests analyses. Findings: As a result of the measurements made, it was found that the experimental group had a lower fatigue level than the control group, with a statistically significant difference between the groups (p < 0.001). It was also found that the experimental group had higher energy and perceived social support scores than the control group after the practice, with a statistically significant difference between the groups (p < 0.001). As a result of the measurements made after the practice, it was found that the experimental group had a lower depression level than the control group, with a statistically significant difference between the groups (p < 0.001). Conclusions: Nursing care based on the Levine's Conservation Model decreased fatigue and depression in women receiving infertility treatment and increased perceived social support and sleep. Implications for nursing practice: This research provides important findings about nursing care based on Levine's Conservation Model for women receiving infertility treatment. It decreased depression and fatigue and increased perceived social support and sleep quality.
This chapter focuses on the grounded theory method and its modifications. This method was originated by sociologists Glaser and Strauss and is among the first rigorous qualitative research methods to be widely practiced. In the traditional method, the theory arises from developing codes for the data through a constant comparative procedure in which each line of data is compared with identified content, and either receives an earlier code or is assigned a new one. The constant comparative procedure originally suggested by Glaser and Strauss is described and contrasted with a variation. This variation involves breaking transcripts into units of meaning and interpreting the meanings of each meaning unit. Categorizing is done immediately, from one meaning unit to the next, rather than through the intervening step of developing codes and then categorizing them. The variation is illustrated with a case and an overview of the returns from the study as a whole is provided.
A 3‐year, longitudinal study was conducted to determine how infertile couples make the transition to biological childlessness after medical treatment fails. Four in‐depth, semi‐structured interviews were conducted with 37 couples at 10‐month intervals beginning within 2 months after they stopped trying to conceive. Phenomenological analysis of these data indicated progressive adaptation by the participants to their biological childlessness over time, with greater overall life satisfaction being most apparent for those who were successful in creating their families through adoption.