Paths into childlessness: country-specific or universal?

Monika Mynarska, Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University
Anna Matysiak, Wittgenstein Centre (IIASA, VID/Ă–AW, WU)
Anna Rybinska, Warsaw School of Economics
Valentina Tocchioni, UniversitĂ  di Firenze

Childlessness is rarely an outcome of a single decision or can be attributed to one particular reason. Remaining childless should rather be seen as a process, influenced by continuously changing context and by many choices that an individual makes in various life spheres over the life course. A necessity to look at a childlessness in a dynamic way and to analyze it from the life course viewpoint has been already emphasized in the literature, but not many studies have adopted this perspective so far. Moreover, these studies focused mostly on the effect of accumulated experience of life events on a probability to have no children. Such an approach does not allow for capturing a whole variety of different roads to childlessness that are postulated in the literature. Our paper aims at filling this gap by applying an exploratory approach of sequence analysis. We employ sequence analysis to reconstruct the major life course trajectories of childless women in selected developed countries. Our approach allows for revealing the complexity of life paths leading to childlessness. Importantly, while some life course trajectories of childless women seem to be universal across the countries, there are also country specific patterns depicted. This finding opens considerations on universal versus context-specific paths to childlessness.

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Presented in Session 101: Childlessness, fertility and employment