Graduation Year

2004

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

Mass Communications

Major Professor

Bajkiewicz, Tim

Keywords

pregnancy, children, family, reproduction, parenthood

Abstract

In the United States, like most other parts of the world, there is a commonly held belief that all capable couples should have children. This belief has contributed to the development of a pro-natalist ideology or concept that having children is good. This pronatalist belief tends to spill over into the media, as well. Yet, there are those individuals who do not subscribe to the parenthood belief structure and to the manner in which the media frame the parenthood debate. These people are known as the voluntarily childfree or the childless by choice. This thesis is an exploratory ethnographic examination of the childless by choice subculture and their relationship to potential pro-natalist media framing. It is a search for deeper understanding into the relationship between the media and the voluntarily childfree.

In order to gain a better understanding of the childless by choice and their relationship to pro-natalist media representations, this thesis utilized in-depth interviews and participant observation as its methods of data collection. The study utilized eight couples and was conducted during the month of April of 2004. The observation/interview process lasted an average of 85 minutes each. This study found that a perceived relationship exists between the media and childless by choice sub-culture. This association is complex and is further complicated by the media's apparent lack of knowledge about this particular demographic. The suggested role the media play, in this relationship, is one of enforcer. It perpetuates the dominant pro-natalist ideology and reinforces the status quo. The media also assist in contributing to the stigmatization and negative stereotypes of the voluntarily childfree.

Some of the stigma associated with remaining childfree could be reduced if the media portrayed having children as a viable option and not a requirement of adulthood. These efforts, combined with a concerted effort on the media's part to include more frequent and positive representations of this demographic, can be most beneficial to the childless by choice subculture. Through a deeper understanding of this relationship, a more accurate representation of this demographic was allowed to surface.

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