Childless or Childfree? Paths to Voluntary Childlessness in Italy



This article investigates childlessness in Italy. Trends in childlessness are presented and compared with trends elsewhere in Europe. Different paths to childlessness are outlined, using data from a survey carried out among childless women aged 40-44 in five Italian cities in 2002. Individual characteristics of the childless and reasons for childlessness are investigated. As many as one-third of the interviewees who live with a partner and do not suffer from any physical impediment are voluntarily childless. These women, in contrast to mothers, appear to be less religious and to have partners who are less religious; they tend to come from smaller families; to have been in a nonmarital cohabitation at least once in life; to have entered their first union later; and to have had, in the initial period of their union, temporary work and flexible work schedules and limited leisure time. In other cases, childlessness is the unintended outcome of a decision to delay having a child or the result of adverse external circumstances, particularly dissolution of partnership.