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The Childless Revolution Hardcover – April 3, 2001

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Childless women power many industries, in which they are often expected to cover for working moms and judged for not having children. A professional actress, Cain (First Time Mothers, Last Chance Babies: Parenting at 35+) divides childless women into three subsets: those who don't have children by choice, by chance, and by happenstance. Childless-by-choice (aka, "childfree") women literally choose not to have children, either because they flat-out dislike them or because of idealistic religious or environmental reasons. Women who are childless by chance always wanted to have children but were prevented by infertility issues. Cain's childless-by-happenstance category is a catchall of women whose other life choices ended up stopping them from having children; some didn't have children because of their spouses' attitudes, some because they had no spouse at all, and some because they waited too long and their biological clocks stopped ticking. Citing a 1993 American Demographics article that claims there will be a 44 percent increase in the number of childless couples by 2010, Cain asserts that despite that projected increase, society will still harshly criticize women without children as complete aberrations. This is a bland read, but many women may take comfort in its findings. Appropriate for all public libraries; women's studies bibliographers may also be interested. Pam Matthews, Musselman Lib., Gettysburg Coll., PA
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"Excellent." -- Elle August, 2003 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press (April 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0738204609
  • ISBN-13: 978-0738204604
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.8 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,440,556 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

136 of 152 people found the following review helpful By L. Feld on September 8, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This is not a bad book overall, but it could have been a far better one. The main problem is that the author, Madelyn Cain, described on the book jacket as an English teacher, doesn't seem to have much ability in statistics, or quantitative skills in general. The reason I say this is that Cain makes numerous large, and important, factual errors (see examples below). While this does not totally destroy the book, it seriously undermines the author's credibility. It's too bad, because Cain is onto an interesting, important topic here, and I find many of the stories of the people she interviews to be very interesting.
Let me just list a few of the most egregious errors. For one, Cain claims at separate points in the book that 42.2% of all women are childless, and that 41% of women over 40 "never have a child." The problem here, besides the confusing English ("never have a child" - huh?), is not so much that the NUMBERS are wrong (and they are, at least the way Cain explains them), but that the interpretation is all messed up. What Cain is TRYING to say, I think, is that the proportion of childless women has increased over the past few decades. And that IS true, according to the US Census Bureau. The problem is that the 42.2% figure refers to a huge age range (15-44), and that the vast majority of what Cain calls "childless" women are actually under age 25. Census Bureau statistics from 1998 show that the incidence of childlessness declines as women age, from 90.1% of 15-19 year olds, to 64% of 20-24 year olds, to 19.8% of 35-39 year olds, to 19.0% of 40-44 year olds. So, the relevant number here is more like 19.0% (not 42.2%), which is the percent of women moving out of childbearing years who have not had a child. And this number is indeed up since over the past couple of decades, from 10% in 1980.
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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 9, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This book is a comprehensive, and well researched documentation of the many reasons women do not have children. Cain provides an in-depth historical and statistical background to birthrates and childlessness, which is very informative, as well as short biographies of several famous women without children. It is an easy read, a nice balance of facts and personal interviews with over 100 childless (Cain's chosen term) women.
I do wonder why Cain titled this book with the word "Revolution", as there is no implication that women are not having children as a protest or reaction to any specific or unifying factor. Rather, she illustrates that the reasons for childless/free-ness are vast and varied. The title may be misleading. Except for a single sentence, Cain doesn't discuss the reasons men are childless, so perhaps a more accurate title might simply be "Woman Without Children." Furthermore, get that controversial and negative word - childLESS - off the cover and this book might be better received.
Cain categorizes childless women into 3 primary categories: Those who have chosen to be ChildFREE, applying this term only to those who are totally happy about their choice; Those who are ChildLESS due to infertility or other uncontrollable (medical) factors and are unhappy with their inability to have children; Those who are ChildLESS by happenstance, such as delaying children until past childbearing age, having a partner who doesn't want children (or more children) or being single and unwilling to have a child out of wedlock. The author acknowledges that this may be the largest percentage of childless women.
Before I even opened this book, I read the brief author bio on the back cover. As a woman without child, upon reading that the author was a mother, I immediately put up my defenses.
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51 of 55 people found the following review helpful By "kennettk" on March 31, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I was looking for affirmation of my own decision to remain childless, but did not find it here. Madeyln Cain makes it clear at the beginning of the book that she did not understand why women chose to remain childless. Her analysis did not convince me, by the book's conclusion, that she understands the issues in any real depth. As someone who has chosen to remain "childfree", I do not dislike children, I do not want to save the planet and I did not have a traumatic childhood. It's much more complex than that . . . . I believe it has a lot to do with your own experiences as a child, your relationships with your family members and your values, beliefs, etc. I didn't particularly like being a kid; my mother was a frustrated, unhappy stay-at-home mother. I was a middle child. I don't like looking after other people (and I'm not good at it - I don't have the patience). I am continually challenging tradition. I dislike routine - and I've always been told that children need routine! Motherhood is a huge responsibility that I was not prepared to accept. At the age of 13, when I realized I had a choice, I made my decision. Although I am now reaching an age when I will no longer have that choice, I still think I made the right decision for me.
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36 of 40 people found the following review helpful By "msdorkness" on April 28, 2004
Format: Paperback
I am childfree and want to remain that way. I bought this book as a guide of sorts but I was not impressed. The majority of the book divides childless women into three groups: those who chose to be childfree (nuns, me, etc.), those who tried but just couldn't (infertile couples, etc.) and those who didn't decide but just fell into childlessness ('I finally met the right man and he doesn't want kids so there you have it').
I was looking more for an analysis of how our roles in society are being overlooked and how certain parts of society lean towards those with children. There was very little of this analysis and even then it just seemed like suggestions on what should be considered and that was all.
Next time I would like to see more of an analysis. If a great analysis could be compared to a college textbook, this book is a sixth grade easy reader that lightly covers the bases but doesn't go deep enough to understand it all.
I think this book would be most helpful to people who think those without kids are an interesting and incomprehensible group. For the childless ones, I would look elsewhere.
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