Childlessness Among The Elderly: Effects Of Social Ties

2399 words - 10 pages

Introduction
Aging has become a worldwide issue as attentions to health status of older populations increase. As people age, they face different situations that lead them to the current point, satisfaction and health or vise versa. Researchers have conducted and identified various reasons affecting the health of elders. For example, childlessness, marital status, unemployment, and poor social integration are all recognized risk factors that influence the quality of life of older populations. Childlessness has raised a great concern since 1990, as one in every five elders aged over 65 report not having children (Zhang & Hayward, 2001). Another research has also argued, due to the high prevalence of delayed marriage, high divorce rates, and voluntary childlessness nowadays, numbers of childless elders are expected to increase over the next few decades (Zhang & Hayward, 2001). Zhang and Hayward (2001) also state that around 25% of older populations suffering from loneliness due to spouseless and childlessness in the near future is anticipated (Zhang & Hayward, 2001). Family, the basic component of one’s life, has always been considered as the primary source of well-being among older persons as it provides informal cares such as physical, emotional, and financial supports (Zhang & Hayward, 2001). In addition, presence of children or children in-law correlates with a better understanding and experiences of security, immortality, success, companionship, and affection among the elderly parents compared to older persons without children. Childless elders are often found to have limited social networks and passive engagement in social activities (Zhang & Hayward, 2001). However, effects of childlessness among older population are inconsistent. This paper provides an in depth review of the reasons leading to childlessness among older persons and the consequences of childlessness among different groups of people in terms of marital status, gender and race.

Reasons of Childlessness
The prevalence of childless elders has increased significantly over decades. According to Plotnick (2009), women age between 40 to 44 years comprise up to 20.4% of childless elders in 2006 as a result of personal preference or infertility issues compared to 17.5% in 1995 and 10.2% in 1976. As familial relationships contribute to the well-bing of elders, childlessness is considered problematic (Wenger, Scott & Patterson, 2000). Based on Connidis & Mcmullin (1996) research, childlessness among elders is categorized into the following two situations: voluntary and involuntary. Voluntary childlessness refers to couples that desire a childfree lifestyle or individuals who choose to be single due to personal preference (Connidis & Mcmullin, 1996). For example, women who reject the traditional perception of gender roles may have less desire in building a family (Wenger et al., 2000). On the other hand, persons with low fertility rates and those who have lost their children during...

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