Sociology of Childfree

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.

Sad Trombone

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?


There is, to my knowledge, no engaging photo that represents the sociological study of the childfree so instead please enjoy this cute puppy. Image courtesy of

There is, to my knowledge, no engaging photo that represents the sociological study of the childfree so instead please enjoy this cute puppy.
Image courtesy of

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!

Childfree Feedback

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?

4 Responses to Sociology of Childfree

  1. Confused August 13, 2013 at 9:03 am #

    I’m a childfree sociologist and the reasons I do not research in this area are
    1) It attracts too much vitriol and / or too little interest
    2) I’m perceived to have a barrow to push (unlike those researching sociology of the family, most of whom have kids, and don’t get me started on all the parents of ADHD kids who research on ADHD…)
    3) I want to keep getting jobs.

    Seriously, as soon as one mentions that one is childfree, or even unchilded and starts associating this with anything other than ‘deviancy’ or social decay one is pathologised and stigmatised.

    I will definitely follow-up on the sources you mentioned, though 🙂 Thanks!

  2. Kimya N. Dennis August 9, 2013 at 8:03 pm #

    Thank you for mentioning my childfree research. As a childfree sociologist (and a sociologist who is childfree) I believe the issue is twofold:

    On one end, some people act bewildered as to why we keep discussing this issue. If you read some of the comments on the Internet, some people pretend as though “no one cares that you are childfree…get over yourselves.” I believe this is passive aggressiveness and an attempt at dismissal and silencing.

    On the other end, this topic has been discussed to some extent over the generations. The discussion has increased and become more positive over the past 10 years. Still there remain people who are uncomfortable with the topic and who see this as a slight to parents, gender norms, religion, the family, and so forth.

    I will unfortunately not be attending this ASA but look forward to presenting my childfree research at future ASA and ABS Annual Meetings. Have safe travels.

    • Amy August 10, 2013 at 3:28 pm #

      Great points, Kimya. Thank you for weighing in. I look forward to attending your presentations at future meetings!


  1. 6 Things We Know About the Childfree: Summarizing the Research | childfree |we're {not} having a baby! - August 16, 2013

    […] week I posted a call for more sociology of the childfree. Then it occurred to me: why not share what we already know from […]

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: