An examination of the social, geographical and housing characteristics of females age 10-16 in 1971 yet to give birth using the ONS Longitudinal Study

Chris White, Office for National Statistics

[Project number 20065]

The entire childbearing age span of women aged 15 in 1971 is now covered in the ONS Longitudinal Study. This provides an opportunity to investigate the social, geographical and household characteristics of women who remain childless during this 30 year period. Since the post war baby boom there has been a dramatic change in childbearing patterns throughout the developed world. Women are delaying starting a family with births to women aged below 30 declining sharply. While delay in the starting of families has been fairly well researched over the past two decades, studies of childless lifestyle choices received less attention. Statistics from a number of countries in the developed world, such as USA, Australia and Britain have demonstrated a rising trend in the proportion of women who are remaining childless. Technological innovations such as the female contraceptive pill and access to higher education have given women freedom to exercise choice in whether to conceive, when to conceive and how often to conceive and access to the professional, technical and managerial labour markets. Biological control and higher status occupations have secured financial independence and changed female expectations from the archetypal find a husband, have a family, devote your life to child-rearing to remaining single for longer, career progression and casual approach to relationships with the opposite sex. This study will provide the first opportunity to compare childlessness with earlier cohorts with the idea of predicting the proportion of childlessness that is voluntary and the socio-environmental factors associated with this change.

Childlessness is defined as a woman never giving birth in the period investigated.

The aims of this study are:

1. Quantify childlessness in a sample of females aged 10-16 in 1971 using the ONS Longitudinal Study.

2. Compare the incidence of childlessness by parental and resultant individual social class, marital status, housing characteristics, deprivation and region of residence.

3. Model incidence of childlessness based on the characteristics of the study sample to enable prediction over time.

4. Compare the incidence of childlessness over time using the literature and other longitudinal data sets.

5. Generate hypotheses for voluntary childless lifestyle choices to be investigated using alternative research methods.

Top of page