Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy





First Advisor

David Schweingruber


The postmodern family is changing and diverse. As family forms change, there are potential effects on other family members. Voluntary childlessness is one form of postmodern families. This study used a grounded theory approach and symbolic interactionist framework to examine data from semi-structured interviews with 24 participants with at least one adult heterosexual voluntarily childless child. There are seven key findings. (1) The majority of the parents do not stigmatize their children for being voluntarily childless. (2) The majority of the parents view their children positively because of or in spite of the decision. (3) Parents who worry their children would miss the parenting experience and would not have social support when older base their concerns on their personal experiences as parents or caregivers. The parents who did not have some or any of these concerns perceive that having children is unnecessary, view their children as financially secure, and/or perceive their children to have personality traits that would protect them. (4) Parents develop their belief about their children’s decision based on their children’s age and relationship status. (5) Parents perceive freedom as a benefit for themselves due to their children not having children. They were free to spend time and money how they wished, including spending more time with the voluntarily childless child, and free from experiencing fears about the nonexistent grandchildren. (6) The losses the parents perceive for themselves include having fewer interactions with their friends with grandchildren, no interactions with the nonexistent grandchildren, fewer interactions with the voluntarily childless child, and the family line not continuing. (7) Lastly, although voluntarily childless individuals experience stigmatization, the parents did not feel stigmatized because of their children’s decision.

Copyright Owner

Marie Sheneman



File Format


File Size

170 pages

Included in

Sociology Commons