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The Stigma of Involuntary Childlessness

Charlene E. Miall
Social Problems
Vol. 33, No. 4 (Apr., 1986), pp. 268-282
DOI: 10.2307/800719
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/800719
Page Count: 15
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The Stigma of Involuntary Childlessness
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Abstract

In this paper, I analyze the stigma associated with involuntary childlessness and compare the perceptions and behavior of physically infertile women and physically fertile women who are involuntarily childless. I also consider information management strategies developed to offset this stigma. These strategies include selective concealment, therapeutic and preventive disclosure, medical disclaimers, deviance avowal, and a process of practiced deception. I conclude that, although physically infertile women feel more stigmatized, physically fertile women manage information more actively to protect their husbands from the stigma associated with sexual dysfunction. Theoretically, I suggest that these women self-label infertility as discreditable or stigmatizing apart from any formal or informal response.

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