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What does "Childfree" Mean?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 26 October 2016
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Some people who choose not to have children use the term “childfree” to describe themselves. There are a wide range of reasons to choose not to have children, varying from a desire to avoid passing on negative genetic traits to a dislike of children. The movement is quite diverse, running the gamut from highly education professionals to impoverished people struggling to make a living.

The term childfree is meant to distinguish between being free of children and being childless. In the childfree movement, someone who doesn't have children is happy about this state of affairs, viewing a lack of children as a positive thing. In contrast, someone who is childless is someone who genuinely wants to have children who doesn't have them yet, or can't have them. Some people also prefer this distinction as a mark of mutual respect, indicating that both sides recognize that the other side has valid reasons for feeling the way it does.

While people have been opting not to have children for centuries, the movement really exploded in the 1970s, with numerous “childless by choice” organizations springing up and creating various publications talking about the no child lifestyle. No Kidding! is probably one of the more well-known childfree organizations, but numerous other groups can be found supporting this type of lifestyle around the world.

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Because the community is so large and diverse, there is some tension and controversy among members. For example, some people who choose not to have children may like children or have respect for parents, simply opting out of children for themselves, while other childfree people criticize people who choose to have children. Slang terms like “breeder,” “baby rabies,” and so forth are used by some members of the movement as pejoratives which other members view as counterproductive and offensive.

Members of the childfree movement may also struggle socially. In many communities, the choice not to have children is viewed as strange, and people, especially women, may be pressured to have children, or told that they are not contributing to society in a meaningful way until they procreate. This can be frustrating for those who choose not to have children, as can the perceived child-oriented focus of their societies. Of course, for people who are childless due to fertility issues or other problems, the constant questions about when the children are coming can be also heartbreaking.

Because childfree people often feel marginalized by their own societies, some form into distinct communities, establishing spaces where children are not welcome. Childfree groups organize cruises, tours, and so forth, and some have even created neighborhood associations and planned communities.

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