Permanent childlessness is on the rise in Europe. Not only in Northern and Continental European countries, but also in Italy, increasing numbers of women are forgoing motherhood. . Research on this topic is relatively scant in Italy, where until just a few years ago, childlessness appeared to be essentially caused by permanent celibacy or sterility. As permanent childlessness has been increasing in recent cohorts, the question has arisen whether, besides the traditional causes, “modern” motivations for childlessness are emerging. It is of interest to assess the extent to which childlessness among younger women is voluntary and to establish the main causes behind this new behavior. The aims of this analysis are threefold. First, we assess the prevalence of voluntary childlessness in Italy. Second, we delineate profiles of childless women, distinguishing between voluntary and involuntary childlessness, and contrast them to women with children. Third, we investigate the main reasons for childlessness. We focus on the degree of association of voluntary childlessness with differences in value orientation, here measured in terms of religiosity and cohabitation, and with education, given that women with higher education face the greatest "opportunity costs" of parenthood. Our findings are tied to a range of theoretical approaches, some highlighting cultural change as the main determinant of women's and couples' changing fertility preferences, others emphasizing the importance of structural constraints that make parenting more onerous both financially and in terms of opportunity costs. These topics cannot be easily examined using existing national surveys in Italy. Instead, we draw extensively on information from a survey car ried out in five Italian cities in 2002, which also permits comparisons with a control group of mothers from the same cities. We discuss the benefits and drawbacks of this survey.

Childless or childfree? An insight into voluntary childlessness in Italy

MENCARINI, Letizia
2008

Abstract

Permanent childlessness is on the rise in Europe. Not only in Northern and Continental European countries, but also in Italy, increasing numbers of women are forgoing motherhood. . Research on this topic is relatively scant in Italy, where until just a few years ago, childlessness appeared to be essentially caused by permanent celibacy or sterility. As permanent childlessness has been increasing in recent cohorts, the question has arisen whether, besides the traditional causes, “modern” motivations for childlessness are emerging. It is of interest to assess the extent to which childlessness among younger women is voluntary and to establish the main causes behind this new behavior. The aims of this analysis are threefold. First, we assess the prevalence of voluntary childlessness in Italy. Second, we delineate profiles of childless women, distinguishing between voluntary and involuntary childlessness, and contrast them to women with children. Third, we investigate the main reasons for childlessness. We focus on the degree of association of voluntary childlessness with differences in value orientation, here measured in terms of religiosity and cohabitation, and with education, given that women with higher education face the greatest "opportunity costs" of parenthood. Our findings are tied to a range of theoretical approaches, some highlighting cultural change as the main determinant of women's and couples' changing fertility preferences, others emphasizing the importance of structural constraints that make parenting more onerous both financially and in terms of opportunity costs. These topics cannot be easily examined using existing national surveys in Italy. Instead, we draw extensively on information from a survey car ried out in five Italian cities in 2002, which also permits comparisons with a control group of mothers from the same cities. We discuss the benefits and drawbacks of this survey.
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childlessness; Italy
Maria Letizia Tanturri; Letizia Mencarini
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/2318/102916
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