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Childlessness and Parenthood in Colombia

Perez, Cristina Mercedes; (2020) Childlessness and Parenthood in Colombia. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Colombia has undergone profound socio-demographic changes over the past halfcentury, transforming the ‘average’ family and shifting gendered norms around education, work, and domestic life. Using quantitative and qualitative methods, and a broad definition of non-parenthood that includes all women and men who do not (yet) have children, I analyse childlessness across the ‘continuum’ of intentionality from choice through chance. By combining micro- and macro-analyses of (non-)parenthood in Colombia, I aim to critically engage with theoretical frameworks like the Second Demographic Transition (SDT), which explains large-scale socio-demographic change using individual-level ‘value’ re-orientations. This thesis presents the first comprehensive, quantitative analysis of Colombian childlessness. Employing descriptive statistics and logistic regression modelling to analyse census and Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) data from 1985/86-2015, I establish the trend in female childlessness and explore intentionality; analyse factors associated with nonparenthood; and compare women and men. I show that overall childlessness is relatively low and stable (consistently comprising ≤10% of women in their 40s), though ‘voluntary’ non-motherhood has increased over time. Union status is strongly associated with female and male childlessness at all ages, and although ‘definitive’ non-motherhood is associated with higher education (indicating advantage), ‘definitive’ non-fatherhood is associated with socioeconomic disadvantage. A year of anthropological fieldwork, including 35 semi-structured interviews with women and men (non-parents and parents), provided further insight into the factors underlying childlessness. I found that ‘intensive’ parenting ideals pervade Bogotá’s middle classes and are woven into narratives of non-parenthood. Non-parents also emphasised circumstantial and altruistic motivations, resisting the equation of childlessness with selfishness. Women typically framed non-motherhood using discourses of female empowerment/self-reliance, whereas men sought domestically-engaged fatherhood and fewer self-defined as ‘voluntarily’ childless. Although largely consistent with the SDT’s focus on self-fulfilment, these personal narratives also highlight important circumstantial and social factors which complicate explanations primarily based on ‘individualisation’ processes.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Childlessness and Parenthood in Colombia
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author [2021]. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Anthropology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10098840
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