Regret and psychological well-being among voluntarily and involuntarily childless women and mothers

Int J Aging Hum Dev. 2002;54(2):89-106. doi: 10.2190/J08N-VBVG-6PXM-0TTN.


This study examines regret and psychological well-being among 72 middle-aged and older women who are either voluntarily childless, involuntarily childless, or mothers. Group comparisons indicate that, when compared to involuntarily childless women, voluntarily childless women show higher levels of overall well-being, rate themselves as more autonomous with greater environmental mastery, and are less likely to have a child-related regret. An unexpected finding is that about one-third of women categorized by researchers as involuntarily childless indicate that they are "childless by choice." These women report making an active decision to accept the childless lifestyle and focus on the future, in essence exerting control over their situations. Results from this small and selective sample should be interpreted cautiously. However, they do suggest that researchers' definitions of childlessness may not map directly onto those of participants, and they emphasize the importance of ascertaining respondents' perceptions of control over their situations.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Age Factors
  • Aged / psychology*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Canada
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression
  • Emotions*
  • Factor Analysis, Statistical
  • Family Planning Services*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infertility, Female / psychology*
  • Middle Aged / psychology*
  • Self Concept