Attitudes About Childlessness in the United States
The study used cross-sectional analyses of the National Survey of Families and Households (1987-1988, 1992-1994) to examine attitudes about childlessness in the United States. It (a) assesses prevalence of positive, neutral, and negative attitudes about childlessness and (b) identifies the correlates of different attitudes in the population. About one fifth of adults disagreed with prescriptive norms that favor parenthood over childlessness, whereas two fifths gave neutral responses. More than 86% agreed or were neutral on whether childless adults could have fulfilling lives. Positive attitudes were consistently found among those who were female, college educated, or childless. Those with negative attitudes were distinct from those with neutral or positive attitudes and were more likely to be older, male, non-White, less educated, or have conservative religious beliefs, net of other factors. The authors argue attitudes reflect acceptance but not endorsement of childlessness, and substantial proportions of neutral responses merit closer examination.