4 research outputs found

    Facing and dealing with the challenge of involuntary childlessness : an interpretative phenomenological analysis

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    Having children is a major transition in adult development, bringing new meanings into one’s life. While there are people who are childless by choice, for those who are involuntarily childless, life without the fulfilment of parenthood can affect them in various ways. Although, much research on childlessness looks at infertility and treatment experiences, little is known about what it is actually like to be involuntarily childless living everyday life while contemporaries pursue their lives with children. This thesis is composed of two empirical studies. Part I explores the experience of eleven white British women (aged between 45 and 54) who are involuntarily childless. Part II, as an extended study from Part I, investigates the experiences of four white British childless men (aged between 44 and 47) who wanted to be dads. This research applies the participant-centred experiential approach of Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis to explore the lived experience of involuntary childlessness. The results from both studies reveal the following four higher-order patterns: 1) Intrapersonal – loss; 2) Interpersonal – loss; 3) Intrapersonal – gain; and 4) Interpersonal – gain; all of which underpin the experience of the participants striving to live their lives meaningfully. The findings suggest that the emotional impact of childlessness may not appear as a symptom but trigger existential concerns. Difficulties in finding shared meaning with people with children have important implications on identity development. Ways of dealing with childlessness are unique to individuals, and finding ways of relational reconnections, where intrapersonal and interpersonal meaning integration takes place, are of vital importance for people facing the challenge of involuntary childlessness. This thesis hopes to offer a holistic psychological understanding that has practical implications for counsellors and health professionals, and to raise awareness on this phenomenon in society. The need of further research is also addressed

    Facing and dealing with the challenge of involuntary childlessness : an interpretative phenomenological analysis

    Get PDF
    Having children is a major transition in adult development, bringing new meanings into one’s life. While there are people who are childless by choice, for those who are involuntarily childless, life without the fulfilment of parenthood can affect them in various ways. Although, much research on childlessness looks at infertility and treatment experiences, little is known about what it is actually like to be involuntarily childless living everyday life while contemporaries pursue their lives with children. This thesis is composed of two empirical studies. Part I explores the experience of eleven white British women (aged between 45 and 54) who are involuntarily childless. Part II, as an extended study from Part I, investigates the experiences of four white British childless men (aged between 44 and 47) who wanted to be dads. This research applies the participant-centred experiential approach of Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis to explore the lived experience of involuntary childlessness. The results from both studies reveal the following four higher-order patterns: 1) Intrapersonal – loss; 2) Interpersonal – loss; 3) Intrapersonal – gain; and 4) Interpersonal – gain; all of which underpin the experience of the participants striving to live their lives meaningfully. The findings suggest that the emotional impact of childlessness may not appear as a symptom but trigger existential concerns. Difficulties in finding shared meaning with people with children have important implications on identity development. Ways of dealing with childlessness are unique to individuals, and finding ways of relational reconnections, where intrapersonal and interpersonal meaning integration takes place, are of vital importance for people facing the challenge of involuntary childlessness. This thesis hopes to offer a holistic psychological understanding that has practical implications for counsellors and health professionals, and to raise awareness on this phenomenon in society. The need of further research is also addressed

    Interpersonal dynamics of women in midlife living with involuntary childlessness

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    Becoming a parent creates a new phase in adult development where the creation of a family brings new meanings and relational dimensions to one’s life. For people who are involuntarily childless, however, the absence of children can have a multifaceted impact on their everyday lives. Although extensive studies concerning childlessness have been conducted, past work has tended to have a clinical focus on women's infertility and fertility treatments and much less attention has been paid to how involuntarily childless people live beyond the phase of trying for a child while contemporaries pursue their lives with children. This study explores the experience of 11 White, heterosexual British women in midlife living with involuntary childlessness. To gain experiential insights, semi-structured interviews were conducted and transcripts analyzed using interpretive phenomenological analysis. Analysis reveals two interrelated key patterns exemplifying intrapersonal and interpersonal features. This paper focuses on the latter. The findings bring to light not only layers of complex relational issues caused by being involuntarily childless, but also different ways of reconstructing meaning in relational reconnections that impacted positively on developing generativity. The paper presents the dynamics unique to each woman and offers micro-level understandings helpful for health professionals, family therapists, life coaches, and researchers looking into childlessness and midlife/adult development

    “Either stay grieving, or deal with it”: the psychological impact of involuntary childlessness for women living in midlife

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    Study question: What is it like for women to be involuntarily childless in midlife? Summary answer: Involuntarily childless women may be suffering from prolonged grief due to its ambiguous and intangible nature; however, they are also striving to find ways of dealing with their internal pain in order to live with their loss. What is known already: Many studies examining issues around human reproduction have tended to place childlessness in the realm of medicalised infertility and report generalised mental issues, such as depression and psychological distress, existing among women undergoing fertility treatments. Few studies, however, have focused on the individual with regard to the experiential significance of involuntary childlessness and living beyond the phase of trying for a baby. Study design, size, duration: A phenomenologically oriented person-centred qualitative design was used. In-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with 12 White British women, who identified themselves as involuntarily childless, recruited via three leading childless support networks in the UK. Participants/materials, setting, methods: In order to retain an idiographic commitment to the detailed account of a person’s experience, a homogeneous and purposive sampling was used applying the following criteria: women aged between 45 and 55, in long-term heterosexual relationships with no adopted children, step-children, or children of a partner from a previous marriage or relationship, and no longer trying to have a child. Considering the homogeneity of ethnic background, and wishing to respect cultural differences, this study focused on White British women living in the UK. Of the 12, one woman was found to not meet the criteria, and therefore, the experiential data of 11 interviews were used for the study and analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA). Main results and the role of chance: Two higher order levels of themes that illustrate intrapersonal features were identified: the intrapersonal consequences of loss, and confronting internal pain. The former explicated the depth of internal pain while the latter revealed ways in which the participants deal with it in their everyday lives. The important finding here is that both themes are co-existing internal features and dynamically experienced by the participants as they live with the absence of much-hoped-for-children. Limitations, reasons for caution: Given the homogenous sampling and the small number of participants, which is consistent with IPA, we want to be cautious in generalising our study findings. Wider implications of the findings: This study offers the view that there might be potential mental health issues surrounding involuntary childlessness that are currently overlooked. Particularly because the loss of hope cannot be pathologised, and the grief is ambiguous and intangible, it might make people’s grieving process more complicated. An ongoing sense of uncertainty also may persist in that involuntarily childless people may develop symptoms similar to those diagnosed with Prolonged Grief Disorder (PGD). The overall findings elucidate the need for clinicians, counsellors and health professionals to be aware of the possible association with PGD, and promote long-term support and care in helping to maintain psychological well-being for people dealing with involuntary childlessness. Furthermore, this research points to an educational application for younger people by offering information beyond an explanation of infertility and fertility treatment, helping to understand the lived experience of involuntary childlessness. Study funding/competing interest(s): No funding was obtained for this study. The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare. Trial registration number: Not applicable. Key words: involuntary childlessness / grief and coping / psychological well-being / interpretative phenomenological analysis / qualitative researc
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