{Childfree} Research

Dr. Amy Blackstone, Professor of Sociology, University of Maine

Dr. Amy Blackstone, Professor of Sociology, University of Maine

Dr. Amy Blackstone is a professor in Sociology and the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center at the University of Maine where she studies childlessness and the childfree choice, workplace harassment, and civic engagement. Her work has been published in a variety of peer-reviewed journals including American Sociological Review, Law & Society Review, Sociology Compass, and Gender & Society. Professor Blackstone’s research has been featured by various media outlets including the Katie show, public radio, NBC, CNN, TODAY, New York Magazine, Huffington Post, and other local and national venues. You can find out more about media coverage of Amy’s work and of w{n}hab! on our Media page.

On this page, you can learn more about Amy’s on-going study of the childfree choice. Amy also occasionally posts and comments on other social science that impacts and informs us about the childfree. To learn more about Amy’s other research (on topics ranging from workplace harassment to faculty satisfaction to volunteerism and other forms of civic engagement), visit her University of Maine faculty page.

B.A. Luther College, 1994
Ph.D. University of Minnesota, 2003

The Great Big {Childfree} Research Project

A note from Amy

I began my on-going study of the childfree choice in 2008 after receiving a grant from the National Council on Family Relations. A sociologist of gender at heart and by training, I was most interested in discovering how gender and the childfree choice might be connected. Did women and men reach the decision in the same way? Did they think about their choice similarly? Did people respond to them in the same ways? Were the consequences of their choice the same regardless of gender? I quickly discovered that, while gender most definitely shapes the experience of being childfree, it isn’t the only factor.

The dozens (70 and counting) of childfree women and men I’ve formally interviewed since embarking on the research taught me that there is more to their stories than gender. They think about and form families in new and inspiring ways, they face workplace challenges because of their status as childfree, some are deeply involved in the lives of children who are not their own, they lead full and fascinating lives, they’re involved in their communities, and they’re happy with the choice they’ve made. I’ve also learned from my students whose research projects have resulted in even more data to analyze and learn from including a survey of over 700 childfree women and men which found that women and those for whom religious identity is important experience the stigma of their choice more deeply.

Since beginning the research, I’ve had the chance to share this work with my peers at conferences and in peer reviewed publications and with the public through the media and other speaking engagements. And the data continue to roll in as additional publications, presentations and other work rolls out. Stay tuned to this page for updates on the project and thank you for your interest in it!

{Childfree} Scholarly Articles & Chapters*

*A complete listing of Dr. Blackstone’s peer reviewed publications, speaking engagements, and other experience can be found on her Curriculum Vitae.

Blackstone, Amy. Forthcoming. “’Am I less of a woman because I don’t have kids?’ Gender Resistance and Reification Among the Childfree,” in The Truth about M(O)therhood edited by Julie Rodgers and Helene Cummins. Bradford, Ontario: Demeter Press.

Blackstone, Amy. Forthcoming. “Childless and Childfree,” in Macmillan Encyclopedia of Intimate and Family Relationships: An Interdisciplinary Approach, edited by James J. Ponzetti. Farmington Hills, MI: Macmillan Reference USA.

Blackstone, Amy and Mahala Stewart. 2016. “’There’s more thinking to decide’: How the Childfree Decide Not to Parent.” The Family Journal 24: 296-303.

Blackstone, Amy and Amy Greenleaf. 2015. “Childfree Families.” In Families as They Really Are, 2nd edition, edited by Barbara Risman and Virginia Rutter. New York: Norton.

Blackstone, Amy. 2014. “childless… or childfree?” Contexts. Fall issue: 68-70.

Blackstone, Amy. 2014. “Doing Family without Having Kids.” Sociology Compass 8: 52-62.

Blackstone, Amy and Mahala Stewart. 2012. “Choosing to be Childfree: Research on the Decision not to Parent.” Sociology Compass 6: 718-727.

{Childfree} Presentations

April 2018, “She’s my little buddy”: Childfree Women’s Roles in Social Reproduction, Amy Blackstone, Southern Sociological Society, New Orleans, LA

October 2017, Panel facilitator and discussant for NotMoms from Around the World, NotMom Summit, Cleveland, OH

March 2017, You’ll Die Alone! And Other Myths of the Childfree, Maine Science Festival, Bangor, ME

May 2016, Family Friendly Benefits and Employees Without Children, round table discussant, Advancing Women in Academia: 5th Annual Networking Conference, Bangor, ME

May 2016, Constructing the Childfree Family, Amy Blackstone, 10th Annual International Conference on Sociology, Athens, Greece

October 2015, Who Are the NotMoms?, NotMom Summit, Cleveland, OH

February 2014, Starting a Dialogue: Childfree, Reproduction, and Family Scholars, panel participant, Sociologists for Women in Society Annual Meeting, Nashville, TN

August 2012, “It’s a conscious decision”: Decision Making Processes among Childfree Men and Women, Amy Blackstone (presenter) and Mahala Stewart, Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association, Denver, CO

February 2012, “I get to be her playmate”: Childfree People’s Relationships with Children, Amy Blackstone. Annual Meeting of the Eastern Sociological Society, New York, NY

November 2010, Childfree Status as Gender Transgression?, Amy Blackstone, Annual Meeting of the National Council on Family Relations, Minneapolis, MN

March 2010, “Does not having kids make me less of a woman?”: Gender Resistance and Reification Among the Childfree, Amy Blackstone (presenter) and Mahala Stewart, Annual Meeting of the Eastern Sociological Society, Boston, MA

{Childfree} Work-in-Progress

Blackstone, Amy. “‘I get to be her playmate’: Childfree Women and the Children in Their Lives.” Article in progress.

Blackstone, Amy and Lance Blackstone. You’ll die alone! And Other Myths of the Childfree. Book manuscript in progress.

{Childfree} OpEds & related pieces

“Silent Night, Childfree Night,” Huffington Post, December 21, 2017

“Magnifying Heather Heyer,” with Maxine Trump in Ms., August 17, 2017

“Why Women in Their 30s Are Having More Babies Today Than 20-Somethings,” Huffington Post, May 24, 2017

“Recognizing Childfree Families on International Family Day,” Huffington Post, May 15, 2017

“There is No Maternal Instinct,” Huffington Post, May 10, 2017

“Honoring the Childfree Auntie,” with Maxine Trump in Ms., April 19, 2017

“The Outrage Against Childfree Women Is Real – And It Needs To Stop,” with Therese Shechter in BUST, March 29, 2017

“It’s Politics. What Does Motherhood Have To Do With It?” Ms., July 20, 2016

“The ‘NotMoms’ among us: charitable but unelectable,” Bangor Daily News, November 24, 2015

“Cut Parents Some Slack Already!” Bangor Daily News, May 14, 2014

“Setting the Record Straight on 6 Myths about Childless Adults,” Bangor Daily News, September 17, 2013

“This Crazy, Wonderful (Childfree) Life,” Feature article on katiecouric.com, September 16, 2013

“Childfree? We Know the Why, So What’s the How?” Insufferable Intolerance guest blog post, March 16, 2013

“Childless and loving it: Not being a parent has advantages for families and kids,” Bangor Daily News, July 11, 2012

“Abortion Corrections: There is no Link to Breast Cancer,” Editorial article in The Maine Campus, December 8, 2005

More {Childfree} Research

The NotMom Summit, v2.0

In October 2017, Amy facilitated a panel discussion of NotMoms from around the world. Read more…

How the Childfree Decide Not to Parent

The processes by which women and men decide not to have or rear children are lengthy and complex. In this article published in The Family Journal, Amy Blackstone and Mahala Dyer Stewart examine how 31 childfree adults came to their decision. Read more…

NotMom Summit 2015 opening slideNotMom Summit Opener: Who are the NotMoms? 

In October 2015, Dr. Amy attended the first ever NotMom Summit and helped set the stage for the Summit by providing a review of who NotMoms are, and who we are not. Slides from her presentation can be found here.


childless… or childfree?

In the context of declining birth rates, sociologist Amy Blackstone examines the choice not to become a parent and considers social responses to that choice. [An article in the Fall 2014 issue of Contexts magazine.] Read more…

Childfree is Family Friendly

Image via Flickr Creative Commons

Image via Flickr Creative Commons

… The notion that family is something we choose rather than something based solely on ties of “blood or marriage” isn’t new. … For the 45 childfree women and men I have interviewed in the course of my research on the choice not to parent, family is about belonging, social support, responsibility, and love. For my interview participants, family can and does include blood relations such as siblings and parents and it also includes partners with whom they may have legal ties. But, on the whole, their definitions of family emphasize the needs that families meet and the functions they fulfill rather than who their families do or do not include. Read more…

“There’s more thinking to decide”: Research on the Childfree Decision

Despite media characterizations of childfree couples’ decision not to have kids as “strange” and “snap,” my research suggests that choosing not to have kids is a decision made thoughtfully and over time. Read more…

“I could be a father, but I could never be a mother”: Research on Childfree Women in Canada

We here at w{n}hab! love us some research. Especially when it’s sociological (have we mentioned Amy is a sociologist?). So when we came upon an article last summer describing findings from Gillian Ayers’ research on childfree women, we knew we wanted to know more. Read more…

Eliminating the Culture of Intensive Parenting: A Win-Win for Parents & Childfree

We can probably all agree that we’ll never all agree on how, when, or even whether, the childfree get to talk about parenting.  Some say if we don’t have kids, we have no right to discuss the lives and choices of those who do.* Others suggest that we childfree are among the best equipped to be a voice of reason when it comes to parenthood for we’re less blinded by the cult of pronatalism. Read more…

4 Ways the Childfree Create Family: Part Deux

A couple of weeks ago I posted the first installment of 4 Ways the Childfree Create Family, describing how the childfree fulfill two of four common functions of families. This week, I’ll address the other two functions. Read more…

4 Ways the Childfree Create Family: Part One

Families that don’t include children are largely overlooked by family scholars and in popular discourse. In an effort to rectify this oversight, I recently published an article in the peer-reviewed journal Sociology Compass that analyzes what we know from previous research on how childfree families “do” family. What do childfree families look like? And how do they differ from families that include kids, if at all? Read more…

All Tied Up

A recent ozy.com article notes that more women than ever – and, more significantly, way more women than men – are opting to undergo sterilization procedures. Rather than men subjecting themselves to a relatively benign snip, women are getting all tied up. The article notes that in the 1970s, equal numbers of women and men were… Read more…

What to Expect When No One’s Expecting: A Recent Review

The doomsday stylings of journalist Jonathan Last have been critiqued by demographer David Coleman in a recent review of Last’s What to Expect When No One’s Expecting: America’s Coming Demographic Disaster in the academic journal Population and Development Review (you can read the first page of the four page review here). Some of you may have heard about Jonathan… Read more…

Study of Childfree Black Men: Call for Research Participants

Dr. Kimya N. Dennis, Assistant Professor of Sociology and Criminal Studies at Salem College, is conducting research on the experiences of Black men who are voluntarily childfree. The following are minimum requirements for participation: 1. Minimum 18 years of age 2. Identify as a man who is Black, African American, or of the more immediate… Read more…

The Changing American Family – from New York Times

The New York Times just published a special section of their Science Times entitled The Changing American Family. And in the category of disappointing but not surprising, nary a partnered childfree family is to be found. Author Natalie Angier notes that the American family “has become as multilayered and full of surprises as a holiday turducken”… Read more…

Casual Work Increases Chance of Women Being Childless at 35: study – from theloop.ca

Our comrades to the north are reporting findings from a study conducted by a team of researchers at Australia’s University of Adelaide showing that delayed childbearing ain’t just for highly-educated professional women anymore. It seems even women in casual or temporary jobs, at least those who work longer in such jobs, are waiting longer to… Read more…

Opting Out Without Kids

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade, you’ve heard all about the supposed “opt-out revolution.” It’s that thing where elite women trade in their high-powered jobs for full-time motherhood. It’s gotten a lot of press since the term was first coined in Lisa Belkin‘s 2003 New York Times Magazine piece. Read more… 

Childfree Mythbusting – from bangordailynews.com

When Allison announced at age 12 that she didn’t want kids, her mother told her not to worry, that she would change her mind. Annette stopped getting invitations to her friends’ kids’ birthday parties after they learned she doesn’t want children of her own; they later explained they hadn’t realized she didn’t like kids. Bruce’s family urged him to rethink his choice not to have kids, for surely he would live to regret it. Read more…

Dr. Amy Blackstone on The Katie show discussing research on the childfree

Dr. Amy Blackstone on The Katie show

Childfree Expert on the Katie Couric Show

My wife Amy… Ahem. Starting over. Dr. Amy Blackstone Ph.D. of the University of Maine, chair of the sociology department, and all around sociologist extraordinaire appeared on the Katie Couric show to provide research-backed information on the topic. Read more…
Image from http://www.examiner.com/article/how-to-benefit-from-your-helicopter-parents

(Not so) Breaking News: Helicopter Parenting a Bad Idea

In the course of my day job, I sometimes have occasion to meet the parents of students I teach. 9 times out of 10 this is an utter delight. I’m not biased or anything but my students are generally pretty awesome. So it stands to reason that their parents too are awesome. But there’s that… Read more…

Amy & our trusty #crazybaby checking in at ABC studios in New York.

Checking in at ABC studios

Two Things I’d Add to My Chat with Katie Couric

Yesterday I had the chance to fulfill one of my biggest professional goals – to discuss the contributions of sociological research in a broad-reaching, national forum. Ok, ok, the REAL goal was always to do this on Oprah. But then Oprah up and ended her show before I had a chance to get there. Two Things Id Add to My Chat with Katie Couric childfree by choice childless by choice childfree life childfree living no kids life without kids life without children no children DINKS GINKS Read more…

6 Things We Know About the Childfree

Last week I posted a call for more sociology of the childfree. Then it occurred to me: why not share what we already know from the good research that has been conducted? Decisions about whether to have or rear children, as well as perceptions of people who choose not to parent, are linked to a variety of social processes and identities. My 2012 review of research on voluntarily childless adults highlights the following six insights gained from research conducted thus far. Read more…

Employment Discrimination Against Women Without Kids

An article published by the All-China Women’s Federation describes findings from a recent survey suggesting that married women without kids and single women “past the optimal marrying age” are “likely to encounter discrimination in job-seeking.” Employers, it seems, assume that women without kids will have them eventually and that women’s presumed childbearing will cost the company… Read more…

Research on the Decision Not to Parent

“Choosing to be Childfree: Research on the Decision Not to Parent,” in Sociology Compass. A review of literature featuring studies of the voluntarily childless. Identifies three main trends in studies of the childfree: 1) A focus on the pathways that adults take toward becoming childfree; 2) Studies that examine the unfounded stereotype that the childfree are selfish, unstable, or otherwise deviant; 3) Examinations of how the elderly childfree fare. Read more…

It’s a conscious decision

Presented at the 2012 meeting of the American Sociological Association. To date, much of the research on adults without children has either focused exclusively on women or has utilized a childless as opposed to a childfree framework, thus emphasizing an absence rather than the presence of a conscious decision not to have children. In this article, we examine the processes by which adult women and men come to decide not to have or rear children. Study participants identify as childfree rather than childless. Read more…

I get to be her playmate

Presented at the 2012 meeting of the Eastern Sociological Society. Based on interviews with 31 childfree adults (21 women, 10 men), in this paper I examine childfree people’s relationships with children. Specifically, I analyze the stories childfree people tell about the roles of children in their own lives, in the lives of others, and in our society and culture more generally. While the stories that childfree people tell about their relationships with children contain a number of intriguing contradictions, these stories also reveal important consequences and potential benefits of the relationships they describe. Read more…

Childfree Status as Gender Transgression?

A poster presented at the 2010 meeting of the National Council on Family Relations. Cultural norms centered on heteronormative binaries of gender (male/female), sexuality (heterosexual/homosexual), and family (biological/chosen) prescribe that adults couple with/marry individuals of the other sex AND that they rear children together. Thus choosing to remain childfree could be viewed as a form of gender transgression. Read more…

Does not having kids make me less of a woman?

Presented at the 2010 meeting of the Eastern Sociological Society. Based on interviews with 29 childfree adults (19 women, 10 men), in this paper I examine how the childfree simultaneously resist and reify gender norms. Specifically, I raise a macro-level concern that has not been explicitly considered in previous studies of the childfree… Read more…

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