This weekend I’m attending the American Sociological Association’s 108th Annual Meeting in New York. Woohoo, right?! I love connecting with other sociologists and learning about the latest and greatest research in my areas of interest and expertise.
Upon perusal of the conference program, however, I discovered nary a presentation on the childfree (cue sad trombone riff). Why, when there’s so much to learn about the choice not to have kids, about the stigma associated with it, about the lives of people who are childfree, and about the consequences of our choice, aren’t there more of us studying this population?
Yes, there is lots of great sociological research on the childfree out there already (by Kristin Park, Rosemary Gillespie, Sharon Houseknecht, and Jean Veevers, to name just a very few). And we can look forward to even more good work in the future by sociologist Kimya Dennis, Gillian Ayers, and others too.
But when the choice not to have kids hits mainstream media to the extent that it has in recent years, isn’t it something that even more of us professional observers of human behavior should be talking about?
Where Have All the Childfree Sociologists Gone?
I realize that “childfree” is a rather specialized area of study but still – at the largest U.S. conference of sociologists, with thousands of participants, not a single study of the childfree? Really? (I presented some of my own work at last year’s conference but opted this year to soak in knowledge rather than submit to present. Perhaps that was the wrong call.)
Sociology has a strong history of contributing to public conversation about matters that people care about. Seems to me the choice to remain childfree is one such matter. I’m anxious to see a more sociological lens placed on discussions about why people choose to be childfree, how they do so, and why it matters.
The choice not to have kids is one that is made within particular cultural contexts and has consequences for groups of all sorts (families, couples, employees, employers, long term care facilities, etc.). And these are exactly the sorts of matters sociologists are well equipped to address.
So, consider this my call for more sociology of the childfree. We sociologists have insight to contribute in helping to understand this trend – let’s do it!
Since readers of this blog are more likely to be childfree than to be sociologists, rather than continue my rant about why more sociologists should be participating in the public conversation about the childfree choice, I’d love to hear from YOU about what you’d like to know about the childfree. What questions should those of us who study the childfree be asking? What should we be trying to learn more about?