Vulnerable Life Courses? How Do Women without Children Face Social Norms on Motherhood?

Vanessa Brandalesi, Université de Lausanne

This paper researches the implications of age norms and norms about motherhood on the life courses of childless/childfree women’s in the Swiss context, where gender roles are strongly defined by the male-primary-breadwinner model. Contemporary childlessness is most often a sequence of a series of contingent choices, by an individual or a couple. Inevitably, it contrasts with social norms about motherhood, expectations about couples’ fertility, and “traditional” gender roles. With a set of 68 semi-structured interviews with single women, and in the context of their couple, and informed by the life course and gender perspectives, we uncover the ways in which childless/childfree women experience their a-normative life course trajectory. First results suggest that norms about motherhood proceeded in terms of age and the sequence of life course transitions, which women are embedded, but also uncover the ways in which women differ in how they negotiate their choices.

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 Presented in Session P3. Fertility Intentions and Behaviors