What is so scary about having children? A mixed-methods study on voluntary childlessness in Poland

Jolanta Rytel, Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University
Monika Mynarska, Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University

In the presented study, we apply a mixed-methods approach to investigate motives of Polish women, who consciously decide to remain childless and who are oriented very strongly against motherhood. While a level of childlessness has been increasing in Poland, little is known on the Polish women, who remain childless voluntarily. This study aims at filling this gap in our knowledge. First, we employ data on 345 nulliparous women (aged 30-40), who had completed the Polish version of the Childbearing Questionnaire (Miller 1995). The questionnaire measures women’s childbearing motives (perception of various costs and benefits related to having children) as well as their desires and intentions to become a mother. We identified eight key dimensions of childbearing motives and established that women with strong anti-natal position perceive low emotional and instrumental values of children as well as high costs of motherhood in terms of time, energy and burden. Other potential costs of motherhood (e.g., financial costs or fears related to health and safety of a child) had no significant impact on women’s childbearing desires and intentions. Next, we analysed a set of 20 semi-structured in-depth interviews with childless women characterized by very low levels of childbearing motivation (low scores in the Childbearing Questionnaire). We used a bottom-up coding and identified key arguments against having children. The arguments revealed in the interviews were similar to those recognised in our quantitative findings. Rich qualitative material corroborates and illustrates our statistical findings and also provides important insights into women’s fears and concerns related to having children.

  See extended abstract

Presented in Session 72: Biology, technology, genetics and fertility