The article focuses on findings that were replicated across several countries and considers their relevance for future older adults. Key findings are that (a) childlessness makes more of a difference in men's than in women's lives, (b) never-married women are a childless category with particularly favorable characteristics, and (c) childless people face support deficits only toward the end of life. In future cohorts, the authors expect to see (a) clearer contrasts between childless men and fathers, given indications that men are being more strongly selected into parenthood; (b) diminished differences between childless women and mothers, given the improved conditions for combining work and care; (c) fewer differences in reliance on formal support between older people with and without children, given the increased levels of education and material resources; and (d) that involuntary childlessness will be all the more distressing, given that a chosen life path has been blocked.

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Journal of Family Issues
Department of Sociology

Dykstra, P., & Hagestad, G. (2007). Childlessness and Parenthood in Two Centuries. Journal of Family Issues, 28(11), 1518–1532. doi:10.1177/0192513X07303881