Childfree Adults Face Stigma, New Research Shows
Written By Savvy Auntie Staff Writers
By Staff Writers
While many PANKs (Professional Aunts No Kids) plan, expect or had hoped to have children, many are childfree-by-choice. Sadly, according to a new study by Leslie Ashburn-Nardo, an associate professor
of psychology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
(IUPUI), Savvy Aunties who are voluntarily child-free face a societal stigma for their decision not to have children. The report, which investigated bias against those who choose not to have kids, was published in the March 2017 edition of Sex Roles: A Journal of Research.
Those who are childfree-by-choice, the study found, are judged for not following what many believe to be their moral imperative.
"What's remarkable about our findings is the moral outrage participants reported feeling toward a stranger who decided to not have children," Ashburn-Nardo said. "Our data suggests that not having children is seen not only as atypical, or surprising, but also as morally wrong."
However remarkable, the findings are not atypical. The IUPUI findings are “consistent with other studies of backlash against people who violate social roles and other stereotypic expectations,” a press release on the study states. “When people violate their expected roles, they suffer social sanctions. Given that more and more people in the U.S. are choosing to not have children, this work has far-reaching implications.”
Ashburn-Nardo, who believes hers is the first study to show the morality-bias for those who choose not to have children, suspects that since becoming parents is more typical, “perhaps people are rightfully surprised when they meet a married adult who, with their partner, has chosen to not have children. That they are also outraged by child-free people is what's novel about this work."
The experiment consisted of 197 undergraduates (147 women, 49 men, one gender undefined) reading a vignette about a married adult, then rating their perceptions of the person's degree of psychological fulfillment as well as their feelings toward the person, versus vignettes where the adults with two children. The vignette varied only in terms of the portrayed person's gender and whether they had chosen to have children.
"Consistent with many personal anecdotes, participants rated voluntarily child-free men and women as significantly less fulfilled than men and women with children," Ashburn-Nardo said. "This effect was driven by feelings of moral outrage -- anger, disapproval and disgust -- toward the voluntarily child-free people."
Ashburn-Nardo’s concern is that since other research links discrimination and moral outrage toward those who do not live by social norms, “it's possible that, to the extent they evoke moral outrage, voluntarily child-free people suffer similar consequences, such as in the workplace or in health care. Exploring such outcomes for this demographic is the next step in my research."
Editor's Note: The sample size has a margin error of 7.1%.
Published: March 13, 2017