Interpersonal dynamics of women in midlife living with involuntary childlessness

Abstract

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

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