Neither 'less' or 'free': A long-term view of couple's experiences and construction of involuntary childness


Moulet, Christine Beatrix. (2005). Neither 'less' or 'free': A long-term view of couple's experiences and construction of involuntary childness [Thesis].
AuthorsMoulet, Christine Beatrix
Qualification nameDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Childlessness, whether voluntary, involuntary or circumstantial, is becoming more common in our society. Statistically, greater numbers of Australian women and their Western counterparts will not bear children, thereby creating a larger quantum of couple families. The unwelcome socio-economic consequences have prompted research into reproductive intentions and behaviour to address barriers to reproduction. Studying those who are childless by 'choice' or 'infertile' provides important 'reference points' but also creates a myopic view of the childless that often overlooks circumstantial factors or ignores the fluctuating nature of fertility intentions. Moreover, the medical discourse on infertility has conditioned our thinking and focused research on the psycho-social effects and impacts of assisted reproduction treatment and its failure. This has blurred and obscured the distinction between infertility and involuntary childlessness. Too often these are viewed through the same prism of grief and bereavement as a temporary but pervasive 'crisis' and as impediments to adult development in the long term. The thesis provides new insights that challenge our conventional ways of thinking particularly its findings that although infertility and childlessness are related, they are separate phenomena. This has wide-ranging implications, especially for reformulating related clinical practice and counselling. There are several important considerations. One is the finding that the grief and bereavement model has its limitations beyond the infertility stage. Another is the theoretical reconstruction that the thesis provides of the grief that the involuntary childless experience. Finally, it makes a strong case for a more appropriate alternative which the thesis argues should be based on a growth-oriented model. The time point at which the information for this study was collected has rarely ever been used before.;This adds significant weight to the findings and applications that potentially derive from them. The thesis also examines gender issues including the complexities in differential experiences, amongst and across gender categories. It builds on the existing body of knowledge on the gendered experience of involuntary childlessness and offers additional explanations for the variations found, around which clinical interventions should be framed. Overall, this study makes an important contribution to our knowledge and understanding by documenting the transitional process to involuntary childlessness in broader terms than has hitherto been the case. Contrary to conventional thinking related to adult development, the findings underscore the importance of viewing involuntary childlessness as an alternative developmental pathway.

PublisherAustralian Catholic University
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Research GroupSchool of Allied Health
Final version
Publication dates01 Nov 2005
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