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Remaking «Family» Communicatively

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Edited By Leslie A. Baxter

Demographers have repeatedly confirmed that the nuclear family is on the decline. Yet when Americans are asked about their ideal family, the nuclear family emerges as the most valued kind of family. Members of families that do not match this cultural ideal face a discursive burden to legitimate their identity as a «family.»
This volume gathers together communication scholars who are working on the many kinds of alternative family forms, from, among others, grandfamilies, diasporic immigrant families, and military families to in (voluntarily) childless families and stepfamilies.
The organizing question for the volume focuses on resistance, reconstruction, and resilience: how is it that alternatives to the traditional family are constructed and sustained through communicative practices? Several chapters adopt a global perspective, thereby framing the issue of legitimation of «family» in a broader cultural context.
None of the family forms described in this volume meets the ideological «gold standard” of the nuclear family, and in this sense they all represent a remaking of the family in profound ways.
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Chapter Eight: Life without Kids: In(Voluntarily) Childless Families

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CHAPTER EIGHT

Life without Kids

In(Voluntarily) Childless Families

KELI RYAN STEUBER



In our pronatalist society, the assumption is that individuals will become parents one day, regardless of reproductive ability. Parenthood is often viewed as a rite of passage and a critical stage in development and maturity (Scott, 2009). However, an increasing number of families find themselves childless either by choice or chance. Whereas many of the families being discussed in other chapters of this book must work to legitimate the presence of a non-biological or non-legal relative as part of their family unit, these families are burdened with legitimating their identity as a family with the absence of an expected member of a nuclear family unit: a child.

Composition of Childless Families

The childless population is comprised of individuals who are purposively childless, those who are biologically unable to have children, and those who are temporarily childless (Park, 2005). There is an increase in the number of couples who are purposively choosing to remain childfree (Durham, 2008). Although it is difficult to ascertain specific and current numbers, especially for men, researchers have found that the number of women of childbearing years (15–44 years) who have selected a voluntarily childfree lifestyle has increased over the past 20 years (Paul, 2001). ← 121 | 122 → Despite the increase in this trend, voluntarily childless families are still uncommon (see Durham & Braithwaite, 2009). Compared to individuals...

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