Becoming a mother is a significant transition in adult development. For women who wanted to have children but found themselves unable to do so, life without the fulfilment of motherhood can affect meaning-making in everyday life. Although increasing numbers of studies concerning childlessness have been carried out, much of this research has tended to focus on infertility and issues around fertility treatments. Little is known, however, about the psychological impact childlessness can have on women in midlife and how they experience the absence of children. The aim of this chapter is to offer readers an overview of psychological understanding in current research trends by reviewing papers that focus on women in midlife who are involuntarily childless. Findings from the 40 most relevant papers will be discussed under one of four key features: (1) psychological distress: medical consequences of infertility, (2) childlessness: life-span perspectives, (3) involuntary childlessness: psychosocial perspectives and (4) coping: ways of building resilience. The findings point to the dominance of quantitative approaches in researching infertility, while confirming that little has been carried out that looks at lived experience of involuntary childlessness. I hope the findings shown here will point to the necessity of psychological research applying qualitative experiential approaches that can facilitate a deeper understanding of women facing this challenge.
I would like to thank Professor Jonathan A. Smith and an anonymous reviewer for their helpful comments on an earlier draft of this chapter. Thanks also to Dr Natalie Sappleton, the editor, who gave me the opportunity to submit my work.
Fieldsend, M. (2018), "What Is It Like Being Involuntarily Childless? Searching for Ways of Understanding from a Psychological Perspective", Sappleton, N. (Ed.) Voluntary and Involuntary Childlessness (Emerald Studies in Reproduction, Culture and Society), Emerald Publishing Limited, pp. 49-70. https://doi.org/10.1108/978-1-78754-361-420181003Download as .RIS
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