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Transitions to Non Parentalhood

Transitions to Non Parentalhood:  A Study of Personal and Marital Adjustment among Childless Couples and Couples with Children

Manisha kohli,1  Arti Bakshi2

1,Assistant Professor, 2Prof. and Head, Department of Psychology G.C.W Gandhinager Jammu.

Abstract

Background: Infertility or involuntary childlessness is a significant source of emotional trauma for several couples. Recent studies show that in resource-poor countries, where children are highly valued for cultural and economic reasons, childlessness often creates serious problems for couples, especially women who are generally blamed for infertility. The stigma of childlessness is so great that infertile women are socially isolated and neglected. This article focuses on the couple’s experience with childlessness and its effect on their personal and marital adjustment.

Aim- Studies of personal and marital adjustment of the childless couples and couples with children.

 Methodology-This study includes 50 involuntary childless couples and 50 couples with children. They were examined using personal adjustment and marital adjustment inventory developed by C.G Deshpande.  The effect of Gender and type of couple (independent variables) was seen on the personal and marital adjustment (dependent variable).

Results: significant difference exists between Childless Couples and couples with children in case of Personal and marital Adjustment.  These results show that childless couples are poor on marital adjustment than couples with children. The Correlation of Personal Adjustment with Marital Adjustment was positive and significant.

 Conclusion: For these couples, the infertility or involuntary childlessness is the worst thing that could happen and is seen as the major life crises.

Key Words - Non parental hood, childless couples, Marital Adjustment and Personal Adjustment

 

Introduction

Each and every married couple intensely desires to have a child.  The newly married couples always see the dreams of having children. Marriage means to continue racial tradition or to maintain a law of reproduction. To have a child is symbolically important because it shapes cultural and social identity of a couple. Married couples want to have a child and to continue their inheritance. Each couple desires to have parenthood as it is at the top of most parents’ identity hierarchies, ranking ahead of marriage. Love for their child is a natural source for maternal and paternal feelings and behaviour. Recent studies show that in resource-poor countries, where children are highly valued for cultural and economic reasons, childlessness often creates serious problems for couples. The stigma of childlessness is so great that infertile women are socially isolated and neglected. Not, to have children can disrupt the normal life expectations of both men and women 1,2 and is often viewed as a major life crises3 .India is not exceptional in its emphasis on childbearing—making babies is the primary way women are expected to make families the world over ,and in western nations, women encounter stigma, if they do not become mothers4,5 The effects of Childlessness are very intense. Its effects are of psycho-social type. There is social role conflict and social tension and that disturbs their marital life6. Involuntary childlessness is a very delicate and sensitive emotional problem and the house where there is no child becomes automatically unhappy. The couples who do not have a child are deprived of this heavenly joy which deeply affects their marital adjustment as well as personal adjustment. It is found that childlessness deeply affects personal, sexual and social levels of life. When we think of childlessness at personal level, it creates the problem of self -realization, self-actualization, and self-respect. Particularly for women, it is very harmful. Like many women, men also suffer from low self esteem, anxiety, isolation, blame, and greater sexual inadequacy. Childbearing is an important goal for a marriage7 and not being able to have children may cause marriage impairment8.

 

Objectives

1.       To study the personal adjustment and marital adjustment of the childless couples and couples with children.

2.       To study the relationship among the personal and marital adjustment of the childless couples and couples with children.

 

Hypothesis

The following hypothesis will be investigated in the present study:

1.       There will be no significant difference in the personal adjustment of the childless couples and couples with children.

2.       There will be no significant difference in the marital adjustment of the childless couples and couples with children.

3.       There will be no significant relationship in the personal and marital adjustment of the childless couples and couples with children.

 

Method

Sample

Sample comprised of 50 involuntary childless couples and 50 couples with children. Childless couples were selected from the community by using the snow ball technique; couples with children were randomly drawn from different areas of Jammu. Married couples who ware living together (minimum duration of 2 years and maximum duration of 15 years), educated up to the 10th standard and proficient in English were included in the study. For inclusion in the childless group the couple had to have failure to conceive due to the incapability of fertilization of both or one of them, and a couple whose issues do not survive after birth.

 

Tools

In addition to a socio-demographic data sheet, the following tools were used:

1. Marriage Adjustment Inventory

For the study of marital adjustment of childless couples and couples with children marriage adjustment inventory developed by C.G Deshpande (1988) was used. The inventory contains 25 items, 15 items are with rated statements on a five point scale. The remaining 10 items are to be checked by the subject on five point scale of agreement-disagreement. The reliability for total inventory is .83 as measured by split-half method using even odd scores

2. Personal Adjustment Inventory

For the study of personal adjustment of couples, Personal Adjustment inventory developed by C.G deshpande(1988) was used, it consists of 20 statements, and subject has to see how far each statement is applicable to him/her on a three point scale. The split half reliability is .81 using even odd scores.

Time required for all sets is 55-60 minutes.

 

Procedure

Prior to data collection, childless couples were identified by using snow boll technique. Couples with children were randomly selected. All the couples were individually contacted, purpose of the research explained, willingness was obtained, proper rapport established and appropriate instructions were given to facilitate the completion of the questionnaires.

 

Results

TABLE 1: Mean S.D. & t-value for personal adjustment of the childless couples and couples with children.

 

 

Personal Adjustment

Mean

S.D

Childless couples

3.43

.851

Couples with children

1.95

.871

t- Value

15.31**

 

TABLE 2: Mean S.D. & t-value for marital adjustment of the childless couples and couples with children.

 

Marital Adjustment

Mean

S.D

Childless couples

3.44

.580

Couples with children

1.60

.606

t- Value

27.80**

Table 3: showing the Correlation of personal adjustment with marital adjustment.


Personal Adjustment

 Marital Adjustment

.765**

 

The childless couples and couples with children were comparable on base line socio-demographic characteristics. The two groups differed significantly on their scores on the personal adjustment (CLC, M=3.43, SD= .851; CWC, M=1.95, SD= .871; t= 15.31 p< .01) and marital adjustment (CLC, M=3.44, SD=.580; CWC, M = 1.60, SD=.606; t=27.80, p<.01). The correlation between the two was positive and significant.

 

Discussion

Results on personal and marital adjustment showed that childless couples exhibited poor adjustment at personal and marital level in comparison to their counter parts, these differences were obtained both for males and females. Comparison between the two groups of couples revealed that the mean scores of the childless couples is higher as compared to the couples with children, indicating poor adjustment both at personal and marital level. Similar results are reported by a study, assessing the mental health and marital adjustment of childless couples, their results showed that childlessness was the main factor related to the condition of poor marital adjustment of the subjects 9 and creates greater deterioration in marital functioning10, with women reporting poor marital adjustment and quality of life and men experiencing less sexual satisfaction11. It was further found that infertility or involuntary childlessness has direct effect on the marital adjustment, it increases marital conflict and decreases sexual performance and frequency 12 . The stress associated with childlessness has direct effect on the self-efficacy, marriage, intimacy and health. The negative effect of childlessness on the quality of life was stronger for the female partners of childless

 

couples than their male counter parts. Childless females are more anxious, have low self esteem and poor interpersonal relationship as compared to their male counterparts 13, such women are excluded from societal events and ceremonies and are even perceived as inauspicious 14. Literature thus, suggests that infertility and involuntary childlessness is undeniably a major life crises and psychologically stressful 15,16,17 and is more stressful  for women than for men.18,8,19,20,21 Due to all this childlessness has become a curse.

Conclusion

The consequences of childlessness are very harmful at psychological and social level. Childless couples feel a kind of incompleteness and incompetence as their attitude towards themselves become negative. They doubt about their sexual ability, become frustrated and a few of them develop mental disorders. There is a feeling of loneliness, anxiety and helplessness. The emotional relationship between husband and wife may become rigid. In conclusion, to have children appear to play a vital role in contributing to the satisfaction in the personal and marital relationship or the lack of it. It is likely that childlessness affects the marital relationship as both spouses appear to be negatively impacted.

 

References

1.       Daniluk, J. Reconstructing their lives: A longitudinal, qualitative analysis of the transition to biological childlessness for infertile couples. Journal of counselling & Development, 2001; 79: 439-449

2.       Exley, Catherine; Letherby,& Gayle ‘Managing a disrupted life course : Issues of identity and emotion work.’ An inter disciplinary journal for the social study of Health – Illness 2001; 5 (1) , 112-132.

3.       Bergart , A. The experience of women in unsuccessful infertility treatment: what do patients need when medical interventions fails ? Social work in health care, 2000; 30,45-69.

4.       Greil, A.L. Not Yet Pregnant: Infertile couples in contemporary America. 1991; New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

5.       Miall, C.E. The stigma of involuntary childlessness. Social problems  1996; 33:268-82.

6.       Borse, A. S. Borse K) ‘Some personality traits of childless couple’. Paper presented at National conference of Indian Academy of Applied Psychology Chennai, Dec. 1998.

7.       Lee, S.H.& Kuo, B.J Chinese traditional childbearing attitudes and infertile couples in Taiwan. Images J. Nurs. Sch., 2000; 32,54.

8.       Wright, J., Duchesne, C.,& Sabourin, S.,  (1991) Psychological distress and infertile : men and women respond differently. Fertility sterility Jan 55(1), 100-108.

9.       Bakshi, A,& Borse, A. S. ‘Mental health of childless husband and wife with marital adjustment.’ 2005; Paper presented at National conference on Mental Health, Nasik.

10.   Chandra Prabha S.  ‘Marital life among infertile spouses: The wife’s perspective and its implications in therapy’. Journal of family therapy 1991;  vol 18(2) 145-154.

11.   Monga, M., Alexandrescu, B., Katz, S. E., Stein, M.,& Ganiats, T.  ‘Impact of infertility on quality of life, marital adjustment and sexual function. Urology 2004; 63(1) 126-130.

12.   Andrews, F. M., Abey, A.,& Halman, L. J. ‘Stress from infertility, marriage factors, and subjective well-being of wives and husbands’. Journal of Health and Social Behaviour  1991;  32(3) 238-253.

13.   Rasal, P. V., et. al ‘Comparative study of childless wives and having child wives with respect to childless wives with respect to daily and weekly stress. 2006, Paper presented at National conference.

14.   Sayeed, U. Childlessness in Andhra Pradesh India : treatment-seeking and consequences. Reproductive Health Matters 1999; 13:54-64.

15.   Leiblum, S.R. & Greenfield, D.A. The course of infertility: immediate and long-term reactions. In Leiblum, S. (ed), Infertility: Psychological Issues and Counseling Strategies. John Wiley & Sons, New York,  1997;  pp. 83-102

16.   Brkovich AM, Fisher WA. Psychological distress and infertility: Forty years of research. J Psychosom Obst Gyn. 1998; 19:218-28.

17.   Burns,L.H. & Covington, S.N.(eds) (1999) Infertility Counseling: A Comprehensive Handbook for Clinicians. Parthenon, New York, 152 pp.

18.   Berg BJ & Wilson JF Psychological functioning across stages of treatment for infertility. J Behav Med 1991; 14, 11-26.

19.   Nachtigall, R.D., Becker, G. & Wozny, M. The effects of gender-specific diagnosis on men’s and women’s response to infertility. Fertil. Steril., 1992 57, 113-121.

20.   Daniluk, J.C. Gender and infertility. In Leiblum, S. (ed.), Infertility: Psychological Issues and Counseling strategies. John Wiley & Sons, New York, 1997; pp. 103-125.

21.   Jordon, C. & Revenson, T.A Gender differences in coping with infertility: a meta-analysis. J. Behav. Med., 1999;  22, 341-358.