Through the Lenses of Gender, Race, and Class: Students’ Perceptions of Childless/Childfree Individuals and Couples

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Earlier research has documented negative perceptions of childless couples, particularly the voluntarily childfree, among college students. In this project we used hypothetical vignettes to assess variations in students’ (N = 478) perceptions of childless couples related to the couple’s race, occupations of husband and wife, and assumed reasons for childlessness. Perceptions were strongly influenced by occupational status and gender, but we found few race differences. Neither infertility nor chosen childlessness was rated negatively, but couples were rated more positively if they were perceived as temporarily rather than permanently childless. Our findings suggest that delayed parenthood is regarded as normative and that students have few negative biases regarding infertility or chosen childlessness. Perceptions were strongly conditioned by economic and employment considerations, which reflect current concerns about balancing work and family trajectories.