Childlessness and Social Integration Among Elders
According to Dykstra (2006), social integration refers to the idea that “people are socially integrated and embedded when their lives are tied to the lives of other in personally meaningful ways” (p.749). Such relationships often occur when individuals attend or engage in community events and social networks. Social integration leads to different levels of satisfaction in life among the elders with or without children.
Older populations with children are more likely to engage in social networks and expand their personal connections with others because they believe that it will create more opportunities for their children later in life (Dykstra, 2006). Also, older parents tend to have larger social networks as new acquaintanceships develop upon the presence of children. These acquaintanceships can be acquired from the neighborhood that people live in, through friends, and in the school that children attend (Dykstra, 2006). However, other research have provided opposing evidence that as most women consider parenthood as a central aspect of their lives, presence of children accounts for smaller network size among the mothers (Dykstra, 2006). Dykstra (2006) also argues that women with children are more likely to quit their job or forgo their desires for career as a result of childbearing. At most time, workplace provides a great environment for social interactions and development of friendships. Thus, housewives with children are less socially integrated and have smaller social networks compared to childless women in working environments (Dykstra, 2006). Relationships of employment and childlessness are not seen among male populations. To be more specific, social integrations among men are not significantly affected by parental status (Dykstra, 2006).
From a different point of view, childlessness provides more personal space that adults with children do not have. This happens particularly among women without children (Dykstra, 2006). For example, childless women are more likely to be employed, to meet new friends and develop intimate relationships, and to enjoy leisure activities. In addition, women without children have more spare time and desire to participate in community services and invest in charity (Dykstra, 2006). Based on the study conducted by Goldberg, Kantrwo, Kremen and Lauter (1986), older childless female respondents who aged over 80 report having contacts with relatives and friends on a regular basis. They also identify that, in urban areas where population density is high, older childless women often receive supports from their neighbors when traditional supports from children are missing, contributing to more social contacts and larger networks among this group of women (Goldberg et al., 1986). Accordingly, women without children are less associated with social isolation and neglect. However, involuntary childless can lead to lower life satisfaction and poorer integration in the...