UDC 316.356.2


Keywords: region; childfree; refusal to have children; voluntary childlessness; parental family; attitudes towards children; qualitative study

Introduction: childfree is a new social phenomenon that has emerged in the last two decades. It is represented by childless spouses who do not have problems with reproductive health, but do not want to have children. The emergence of childfree families is largely the result of prior structural changes in the society as a whole, as well as of transformation of the family and gender relations in particular. In the context of the demographic crisis in Russia, sociological analysis of this problem is highly relevant.

Materials and Methods: qualitative semi-structured interviews with childfree people (11 men and 4 women from 18 to 27 years old) in the Republic of Mordovia, married or being in a civil union, became the empirical base of this research. The selection was carried out using the snowball method (partly through the social network “VKontakte”). The interview guide included the following thematic blocks: “Parental family”, “Reasons and motives of refusal to have children”, “Attitude towards children, towards starting a family”, “Interaction of the childfree people with the immediate environment (parents, relatives and friends)” and “Value orientations.”

Results: the informants’ main purposes in life are associated with graduating, finding work, housing, etc. In the system of priorities in life, most of respondents mentioned family, relationships with their spouse and friends, as well as “freedom” (“personal”, “from the yoke of the family”), “independence”, “leisure, entertainment, hobby,” “fun life” and “life for oneself.” Most of them live in a de facto union, noting that they do not need registration of a relationship, in particular, because they do not have a child. As the main reasons for choosing childlessness, the majority of informants mentioned the lack of maternal and paternal instinct, fear to give birth and raise children, fear of failing to raise successful children, lack of material resources, cruelty of the society, global problems and perception of the contemporary children as a negative phenomenon. Hatred for children in general was also mentioned. To a lesser extent, this is due to illness, sexual orientation, influence of an unsuccessful family life, parents, etc. The only strong factor of pressure on the childfree people are their parents and, more rarely, friends. As a rule, close friends support their partners in such a choice. Half of the informants said that they socialize with like-minded people, who also chose to be childfree. The childfree are young people from 18 to 27 years of age with higher education or in the process of receiving it. In the study group, there were many representatives from single-parent families. Many of them assume that in the future they may want to have children.

Discussion and Conclusions: сurrently, it is difficult to define what a childfree family is: a long-term trend that will develop in the future, or a temporary community for young people, who may soon change their attitude. There are objective macroeconomic factors of the occurrence of this phenomenon in the current social reality: 1) transition of the Western civilization to the industrial society, especially to the postindustrial one; 2) in the context of democratization and accessibility of higher education, children lose their economic value (children as workers) and are, rather, a dependant burden on the family during the long training which makes it profitable to have few children or no children at all; 3) a well-developed system of social security and services for the elderly people allows them to be economically independent of their children; 4) emancipation of women and transformation of gender roles in general; 5) the growth of individualistic values, personal rights and freedoms, the decline of kinship have led to the freedom of choice of demographic behavior and made childlessness a socially acceptable norm.


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About the author: Tatiana M. Dadaeva, Doctor of Sociological Sciences, Professor at the Department of Sociology, National Research Mordovia State University (68 Bolshevistskaya St., Saransk, 430005, Russia) (е-mail: dadaeva13@mail.ru). ORCID: http://orcid.org/0000-0002-9749-9244

For citation: Dadaeva T.M. Childfree Families in a Region: Myth or Reality? REGIONOLOGIYA = REGIONOLOGY. 2017; 3(25):456—471.

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