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Keywords:

  • infertility;
  • involuntary childlessness;
  • parenthood;
  • psychological distress;
  • stress

Using a random sample of 580 Midwestern women, we test the hypothesis that women who have experienced infertility report higher psychological distress. Approximately one third of our sample reports having experienced infertility sometime in their lives, although the majority of the infertile now have biological children. Drawing hypotheses from identity and stress theories, we examine whether roles or resources condition the effects of infertility or whether its effects are limited to childless women. Infertility combined with involuntary childlessness (including biological and social) is associated with significantly greater distress. For women in this category, the risk of distress is substantial.