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Centre for Research on Families and Relationships Defying Nature?: Contemporary Discourses around Delayed Childbearing and Childlessness in Britain Roona.

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Presentation on theme: "Centre for Research on Families and Relationships Defying Nature?: Contemporary Discourses around Delayed Childbearing and Childlessness in Britain Roona."— Presentation transcript:

1 Centre for Research on Families and Relationships Defying Nature?: Contemporary Discourses around Delayed Childbearing and Childlessness in Britain Roona Simpson Centre for Research on Families and Relationships University of Edinburgh GeNet Seminar, London School of Economics, 31 st May 2007

2 Centre for Research on Families and Relationships Women want to have it all, but biology is unchanged; deferring defies nature and risks heartbreak Bewley S, Davies M, Braude P. Which Career First?, British Medical Journal 331 (2005),17 th September:

3 Centre for Research on Families and Relationships Completed Family Size, Selected Birth Cohorts at age 45 Source: ONS Birth Statistics, Series FM1 33

4 Centre for Research on Families and Relationships Economic Perspectives: Rational Choice Theory Economic analyses of family (Becker 1991, Ermisch 1988) Risk Aversion Theory (Oppenheimer 1994; Hobson and Olah 2006; Lewis 2006)

5 Centre for Research on Families and Relationships Cultural Perspectives: Post-Materialist Values Theory Second Demographic Transition/ Individualisation Theory (van der Kaa 1987, Lesthaeghe 1995, Beck 1992, Giddens 1992) Preference Theory (Hakim 2003)

6 Centre for Research on Families and Relationships Gender Perspectives Gender Equity Theory (McDonald 2000) Changing Gender and Generational Relations (Irwin 2000, 2005; MacKinnon 1995)

7 Centre for Research on Families and Relationships Study on Contemporary Spinsterhood Sample characteristics: 37 never-married and single (not in a cohabiting relationship for at least five years) heterosexual women, aged between 35 and 83. Included solo mothers. Range of socio-economic backgrounds. Methodological approach: Life History interviews, Narrative ontology - interpreting these accounts as particular stories produced by participants to make sense of their lives and define who they are (Somers, 1994)

8 Centre for Research on Families and Relationships When I was younger I always assumed that I would get married and have children […] it was just part of what would happen to me […] But then you get to the stage where you realise its just not going to happen, and if its not going to happen, thats it [Maureen, 53]

9 Centre for Research on Families and Relationships Ive never felt maternal […] I am very different from her (sister) because I dont have this need for children and she does, and that must be dreadful […] I dont have any of that – luckily. Joan, 40

10 Centre for Research on Families and Relationships It was bound up with all kinds of things to do with the fact that I had started working very, very long hours again […] you cant have a proper life like that […] Im not sure that [promotion] matters, to be honest. Im not sure that for me it is the be all and end all (pause). And do I want to be working at that rate for ever and ever? No I dont. I mean, I would have had to do something [Brenda, 37]

11 Centre for Research on Families and Relationships A lot of guys I think have still got this mentality that theyre, you know, theyre looking for […] the whore in the bedroom […] their mother to look after them […] you know, theyre still kind of looking with the old-fashioned values, whereas girls now are saying well no, sorry mate, after I come in from my work the last thing Im going to do is go into the kitchen Louise, 36

12 Centre for Research on Families and Relationships Notions of choice, or preferences are far more complex than rational choice theory allows. Decision-making about childbearing an embedded, ongoing process. Importance of considering changing gendered subjectivities in the context of changing gender relations, and the implications of this for shifts in motivations, desires and behaviours. Ontological assumptions implicit to explanatory theories and underlying social policies - implications of potential mismatch affecting efficacy of latter.


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