Home Family & Relationship Older Childless Women in Israel Find Meaning Through Freedom and Varied Perspectives, Finds New Study

Older Childless Women in Israel Find Meaning Through Freedom and Varied Perspectives, Finds New Study

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A new study explores the lives of older childless women in Israel, revealing how they navigate societal expectations in a pro-natalist society. The research delves into how these women evaluate their lives, highlighting their unique experiences, the importance of freedom, and the different perspectives they employ to maintain ego integrity. The findings were published in the journal Behavioral Sciences.

Older women without children often face a conflict between despair and ego integrity, a concept rooted in Erikson’s theory of development. This study involved 20 semi-structured, in-depth interviews with Israeli women over the age of 60 who do not have children. The research aimed to uncover how these women perceive and value their lives, despite societal pressures that often stigmatise childlessness.

The findings of this study underscore the experiences of these women as they navigate a society that highly values parenthood. In Israel, a country known for its pro-natalist policies, motherhood is often seen as a defining aspect of a woman’s identity. Consequently, women who do not have children may be viewed as deviating from societal norms, facing labels such as “damaged” or “selfish”.

One of the central themes that emerged from the interviews was the significance of freedom in the lives of these women. Many participants expressed that their childlessness afforded them a sense of autonomy and freedom that they highly valued. This freedom was perceived as a crucial element that shaped their life trajectories and influenced their choices.

The ability to live a life characterised by freedom is seen as a valuable resource, allowing these women to cope with various life challenges. This perspective aligns with previous research, suggesting that freedom can serve as a protective mechanism for maintaining a positive self-concept and reducing the likelihood of experiencing despair in old age.

The study also highlighted how older childless women utilise different perspectives to evaluate their lives. These perspectives often oscillate between an internal and external locus of control. An internal locus of control reflects the belief that they can shape their own lives through their actions and decisions. Many participants recounted instances where they actively directed the course of their lives, attributing successes and achievements to their efforts.

Conversely, an external locus of control denotes a belief that life events are influenced by external factors such as fate or a higher power. This perspective was evident when participants discussed failures or regrets, attributing them to circumstances beyond their control. This duality in perspective helps these women reconcile various aspects of their lives, contributing to their overall sense of ego integrity.

The participants’ feelings towards their childlessness varied, reflecting a complex interplay of emotions. Some women expressed regret about not having children, while others felt a sense of acceptance and completeness with their lives as they were. For instance, one participant, Kamila, described her regret about not being a mother, whereas another, Sigal, expressed contentment with her child-free status.

This variation in responses highlights the process of life review, where individuals reflect on their past experiences and evaluate their lives. Through this process, some women were able to reconcile their feelings of regret and find peace with their life choices. The ability to employ both internal and external loci of control in their narratives allowed them to navigate and resolve potential conflicts, leading to a more positive overall evaluation of their lives .

The study’s findings challenge the prevailing societal notion that childless women lack identity or are emotionally damaged. Instead, it reveals that older childless women in Israel adeptly navigate societal expectations by leveraging different perspectives to uphold their ego integrity. This nuanced understanding of their life evaluations provides valuable insights into the diverse experiences of older adults who deviate from mainstream societal norms.

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