Journal article Open Access

Anxious childhood attachment predicts childlessness in later life

Hadley, Robin; Newby, Chloe; & Barry John; Newby, Chloe; Barry, John

The objective of this study was to test the hypothesis that childhood attachment predicts whether a person has children in later life. Although being a parent is considered a typical part of the human life cycle in most parts of the world, childlessness has increased substantially in recent decades in developed parts of the world. It is possible that insecure childhood attachment has contributed to this phenomenon, but this hypothesis has been relatively little explored. This study is a cross-sectional survey of 394 men and women aged over 50 years old, stratified by geographical UK region from a research panel, and analysed using hierarchical logistic regression. Validated measures of childhood attachment and other psychological and demographic factors were used. The main finding was that, independent of the impact of other variables (age, sex, education level, marital status, life stress, healthrelated quality of life, mental positivity, and avoidant attachment style), people who were childless were significantly more likely to have developed an anxious attachment to their primary caregiver in childhood. This study is the first to demonstrate the significance of anxious childhood attachment as a predictor of producing children in one’s lifetime. 

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