Childless Women’s Relationships with Children of Others: Narratives from Two Generations in Lithuania


A childless woman who lives in a society with pronatalist values can be in a vulnerable position. In 2006, only 1.9% of Lithuanians expressed positive attitudes about childlessness, and 84.6% valued it negatively (Stakuniene and Maslauskaite 2008), signalling the pronatalist tendency of Lithuanian society. However, some studies confirm a shift from traditional to more individualistic familial attitudes (Kanopienė et al. 2015). This chapter investigates the relationship between childless women from two generations in Lithuania and the children of these women’s relatives or friends. The analysis is based on 40 semi-structured qualitative interviews conducted in 2017–2018 with single and coupled women between the ages of 28 and 71 who are voluntarily and involuntarily childless. The women of reproductive age were considering their intentions to have or not have children in the future, and some were going through infertility treatments; women over 50 reflected on permanent childlessness. Most of the interviewed women were involved in taking care of their siblings’ or close relatives’ children during a period in their lives, and in some cases, these women became substitute parents. Only a few women stated that they avoided contact with children in their personal lives.