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on September 8, 2001
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. A big increase, but it still represents only a relative minority of women.
Another series of important mistakes, which Cain makes repeatedly, relates to world fertility rates/ birthrates. Here, Cain seems to get TOTALLY confused, apparently mixing up "rates" with "births" or something, and also just getting the numbers wildly wrong. So, what we have is Cain in one sentence claiming that the world's total fertility rate is 1.3 (the real figure is 2.8, more than twice as high, and well above the "replacement level" of 2.1), in another that "fertility rates are increasing" (they're actually declining worldwide), and in another that "birthrates are accelerating" (also not true; birthrates are falling worldwide, and population growth is slowing rapidly). Cain's problems with numbers continue throughout the book, strongly indicating that it's not just an editorial slipup, but that Cain has her population/fertility statistics all messed up, confused, and just plain WRONG. This is not good, especially when it is the subject of the book!! To put it mildly, this calls into question the author's credibility.
On the positive side, Cain is much better in presenting the interesting voices of many women who decided not to, or could not, have children. Cain makes the important point that, despite the increasing number of women choosing not to have kids - for whatever reasons - we still live in a strongly "pronatalist" society, and also one that is biased AGAINST those without children (by the way, on several occasions Cain defines "pronatalist" as "profamily", which is not correct - "pronatalist" means bias in favor of childbearing/children, a significant difference, unless you believe that it's only a "family" when there are children). Bias against women who choose not to (or are unable to) have children includes the beliefs that, among other things, those without children are (take your choice): selfish, neurotic, immature, abnormal, not complete women, etc. Yikes!
Just a couple other comments/questions about this book: why are there no MEN'S voices here; why doesn't the author dig deeper at the socio-economic, political, health, welfare, psychological, and other factors influencing reproductive decisionmaking, as opposed to just taking women's' statements at face value? For instance, several women claim they don't want kids because overpopulation is a bad thing for the environment (no argument here!), but Cain could have dug a little deeper and tried to get at whether or not this was the REAL emotional reason, or just an intellectualization, however important.
In sum, while many of the women's voices we are introduced to in "The Childless Revolution" are interesting ones, the book overall is marred by major (and frequent) factual errors and a lack of serious analysis. Very unfortunate.
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on July 9, 2001
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. I was happily surprised to find this was a balanced, fair and honest dissertation, that neither promoted childlessness or motherhood, but encouraged all women to be aware of their choices. Cain introduces herself as a woman who was almost childless due to infertility but endured years of medical treatments to conceive. Her identity is very strongly tied to motherhood, and admits that she had a hard time understanding women who are not driven to mother as she was. Because of the author's personal experience, the strongest focus of the book were in the section addressing infertility and regrets. She also spends several pages warning women who want children not to wait too long or believe they can rely on medicine to ensure conception. Those who are happiest with their choice receive the least ink and Cain doesn't recognize that some who are infertile or childless by happenstance come to not only to accept, but rejoice in being childfree. Finally, I would have liked more background on the pressure to have children from society, family and friends, and how the women interviewed deal/dealt with external pressures or disrespect targeted at the childless/free woman.
Overall, a well written and informative work, I would recommend The Childless Revolution to readers looking for acknowledgment and validation of their non-motherhood. I would like to see this book as required reading for family therapists, and it also may be enlightening to family members and friends of childless/free women.
No Kidding! Delaware Water Gap chapter --------------------------------
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on March 31, 2004
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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on April 28, 2004
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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on May 23, 2002
As a woman who finds herself under a constant barrage of questions by both friends and strangers as to why I don't have (and won't have) children, I believe that this book is fantastic. Madelyn Cain has written a book about women who are childfree that is both fair and accurate. Her interviews with over 100 women illustrate the wide ranging reasons behind why some women choose not to have children; "by choice, by chance or by happenstance." By including the personal stories of these women, I felt that she made the book less like a clinical study and more of an enjoyable and informative source for anyone curious about the childfree/childless. It was also interesting (and sometimes disturbing) to learn about the misconceptions many people have about women who are not mothers, and also their opinions on how this "revolution" of childlessness will affect the human race. What I believe I appreciated the most about this book is that Cain herself is a mother, and she choose to delve into this topic with an open mind and heart to discover all of the reasons that lead women to not have children. "The Childless Revolution" explores both womanhood and motherhood without concluding or insisting that the two are explicitly intertwined.
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on May 6, 2001
There is an underlying notion in our society that women who do not have children are somehow selfish, or worse, unwilling to fulfill what society deems is the ultimate destiny of a woman: to bear a child. In this insightful book, Ms. Cain examines that issue and shows us that there are as many reasons to have or not to have children as there are women. As a mother myself, it is interesting to hear the voices of those who have chosen a less traditional path. It is not a personal failure on the part of these women who have chosen not to have children, but rather a societal failure to recognize that each woman has a right to choose her own destiny, which may or may not include parenthood.
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on April 9, 2001
At last, a thoroughly researched and comprehensive study of women who have chosen --and in some cases, not freely chosen-- to be childless. As someone who finds herself "labeled" in this category, I have heretofore only approached this subject with another woman who is in the same position as I, and even then, with a sense of discomfort. But Ms. Cain freely, and with uncanny perception and compassion, discusses and analyses this "revolution", which has otherwise been either ignored or looked upon with askance. As the middle sister (who has not conceived), I am sandwiched between a mother of three and another sister who has chosen not only to remain childless, but unmarried as well. I have bemoaned with the latter my feeling of being anathema in a society who values only those who have children as being fulfilled and selfless. It is with great relief and gratitude that I read a book that honors us all --those with children and those without. For those who do not understand all the ramifications of women who do not conceive, and for those who are childless themselves, this is a cherished book of celebration for women of all ilks. Indeed, we all have something to offer --and no choice comes without regret or rewards. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Ms. Cain for honoring the myriad of things that women have to offer each other --and all the children of the world.
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on April 30, 2001
The "Childless Revolution" recently authored by Madelyn Cain is a thoughtful and insightful look at the lives of women without children, and their reasons for and comfort with---a life without children. The author tackles a subject that has been taboo for a long period of time. Adults who are parents often make assumptions about the lives of those without children. Most of these assumptions are not true, and do not have basis in fact. A common assumption, for example, is that adults without children will have a miserable and unhappy old age. In fact, research mentioned in the book by Ms. Cain show that there is no significant difference in overall life contentment between those elderly women with children-and those without children.
The author covers the two main groups of adults without children-those who are "childfree by choice" and those who are "childfree by chance." Within those two categories, she breaks it down further and talks about the variety of reasons that contribute to individuals belonging to one of the groups. The issues covered in this book would be of tremendous help to today's parents-some of who will be the parent of an adult who does not have children. Rather than having this issue catch a parent "by surprise", it is important to be knowledgeable about this topic and to be able to understand and support your family members.
I appreciated the fact that she was able to point out that the experience of adoption was not for everyone. Adoption is based on loss--loss for the child of his or her birthparents, and in some case loss to the adoptive parent-who may not be able to bear children biologically. Adoption requires a specific set of understandings and skills from a parent; one that takes into account the unique needs of the child who is adopted. Some childfree by chance adults felt that they were not up to this task, and wisely made the choice not to adopt.
Adults who are childfree are a steadily increasing percent of our population. It is time for people in general to understand this issue, and to know that a childfree life is not a road to misery and unhappiness, but can be a happy and productive one.
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on May 11, 2007
Madelyn Cain's definition of "childless" and "childfree" are childless individuals are people who wanted children but never conceived and childfree individuals are people who actively chose not to have children. After this point is made the book is mostly complete rubbish but this was apparent from the author's introduction where Cain discusses that the most important ambition, goal, and purpose of her life was to have children. She wrote the book for herself as consolation of her fear of, "What would my life have been if I had never had a child?" Cain is a mother writing about the experiences of the childfree/less and she seems to greatly miss the point.

I was interested in this book because every time I stumble across a childfree book list - there it is! The book is divided into three childless sections (choice, chance, and happenstance) and the choice/childfree section is the shortest. Without saying these things are explicitly true Cain does ensure to link and even suggest within the childfree chapter that women who dislike children have a genetic disorder, men seeking vasectomies at young ages are associated with a religious cult, not wanting children (if not genetic) as a result of childhood trauma/abuse, and of course the never failing favorite - childfree people are selfish/bitter. The section is then broken into three further categories of positively childfree, environmentally childfree, and religiously childfree. Cain does a successful job through her interviews to make everyone in these groups (excluding the religiously childfree) sound crazy.

Other problematic areas in the book include some very negative discussion about adoption (a la the orphans will put arsenic in the well variety), a pervading idea that men are forcing women not to have children, if you don't have a husband OR a child you will be old and alone, it's "ironic" that lesbians have so much trouble having/adopting children rather than homophobic, the extreme level of Christianity everyone expresses, little discussion about disabled couples and no comment at all about individuals who couldn't conceive from birth, no comment on the continuous "my genes" conversations that occur, etc. The list does just go on and on.

The last saving grace of this book is the brief section about childfree/less complaints. This includes tax, work, housing, etc issues. I would not suggest this book to anyone but if you are going to read it please do so with extreme reservations.
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on April 18, 2001
I am a 27-year-old married woman, and I grow more uncertain by the day as to whether children will ever be a part of my life. Ms. Cain's book helped me examine the choice that lies ahead of me from more perspectives than I would have thought possible--each intriguing and thought-provoking in its own way. 'The Childless Revolution' sheds new light on this important subject, which rarely receives the thorough discussion it deserves despite the fact that more and more women--married and single, gay and straight--are living lives without children. This is a book for every woman who is touched by this issue: those who are childless for any reason; those who have never considered childlessness an option; and especially those--like me--for whom this issue presents one of life's most important decisions.
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