“Them and us”: the experience of social exclusion among women without children in their post-reproductive years
journal contributionposted on 2019-01-01, 00:00 authored by Melissa GrahamMelissa Graham, Hayley MckenzieHayley Mckenzie, B Turnbull, Ann TaketAnn Taket
© 2019, Addleton Academic Publishers. All rights reserved. Gendered life scripts position all women as mothers. Yet recent decades demonstrate an increase in the number of women not having children. Despite this, pronatalist ideologies prevail and failure to conform can result in exclusion for women without children. The aim of the current exploratory concurrent mixed methods study was to describe the social connection and exclusion of Australian women with no children during midlife. A purposive sample of 294 female Australian residents aged 45 to 64 years who did not have children completed a self-administered online questionnaire. This article reports the analysis of the qualitative data provided by 245 women through the open-ended questions contained in the questionnaire using inductive thematic analysis. Analysis revealed two main themes: them and us; and multiple layers of social exclusion. The theme them and us highlighted the divide between conforming women with children (us) and non-conforming women without children (them) and was apparent through the multiple layers of social exclusion: at the societal level, where mothers are constructed as “insiders” and women without children are “outsiders,” and this positioning is supported by pronatalist policy agendas; at the community level, where many women without children experience stigma and discrimination within community groups, events, services and workplaces; and at the individual level within families and friendship groups, where non-mothering impacts social interactions.