New Zealand Families Today

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Women in later life who have chosen to remain voluntarily childfree what are the implications if any?

1. AIM
The aim of the research is to explore the implications of remaining voluntarily childfree for women in later life within the New Plymouth district of New Zealand.

Within many Western industrialised societies there are notions that children provide fulfillment, give purpose and offset loneliness in later life. There are tales like the ‘Three Spinsters’ from the writers The Brothers Grimm which have contributed to the stereotypes of childless women as lonely, bitter and unfulfilled for decades. If children are necessary at preventing loneliness in older age there is concern in regards to the New Zealand population trend. The 2006 New Zealand census released reports that by 2016 one in four women will remain childless. The implications of the assumption that children are necessary for elderly wellbeing could mean that our ageing generations may be prone to loneliness. The changing demographics of our society combined with the findings that there is no research to date on voluntary childfree women in later life within New Zealand has amplified my interest in this research topic.

My interest in this research proposal stems from my own position in life. I am a 35 year old Pakeha woman who has chosen to remain childfree. I have had many assumptions put forward to me in regards to my personal choice to remain voluntarily childfree. These are mainly aimed around the notion that I am destined for loneliness in later life and that I will be unfulfilled. Therefore I have made my position within this research proposal transparent as I acknowledge it is influential to my perspective when I undertake the research.

Delwyn Field
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The research proposal will outline the research methodology to be carried out. The research will be qualitative based on a feminist’s perspective, to provide knowledge of women issues, for women from women. The research will be guided by feminist ideology and explore the socially constructed norms of womanhood without motherhood. The data collection will be the use of storytelling which is fitting with qualitative research. The story telling process will enlighten the researcher on how the participants came to their chosen life path. This will be informative as the participants came from the eras of where motherhood and childbirth was predominately something that happened to women not chosen by women (Held, 1989, as cited in Riley, 2008).

The participants for the research will be women who have chosen to remain childfree and they will be over the age of 65. The age range of 65 plus is described as late adulthood in human development lifespan theories (Berk, 2007). I have chosen this age criteria because critical social, emotional and developmental stages occur in this period of life which are broadly universal to most elderly (Berk, 2007). The research proposal will also be based on the New Plymouth district of New Zealand. The New Plymouth district consists of “New Plymouth and the towns of Waitara, Inglewood, Urenui, Okato, Bell Block, Oakura and many other smaller rural communities” (New Plymouth District Council, n.d.). Within New Zealand there is no empirical research done on New Zealand voluntary childless women in smaller urban areas in later life, hence why the research will be conducted here.

This literature review has minimal reference to New Zealand literature as there is a limited study on voluntary childfree persons within New Zealand. Therefore the majority of the literature relied on is sourced from Western industrialised countries.

In 1997, Cameron investigated voluntary childless within New Zealand in her book Without Issue; New Zealanders who choose not to have children. The participants within Delwyn Field
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the research were numerous and involved mostly the...
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