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"Why would you want a baby when you could have a dog?" Voluntarily childless women's "Peternal" feelings, longing and ambivalence

Journal article
Authors Helen Peterson
Kristina Engwall
Published in Social Sciences
Volume 8
Issue 4
Pages 1-15
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Sociology and Work Science
Pages 1-15
Language en
Links https://www.mdpi.com/2076-0760/8/4/...
Keywords "peternal", Pets, Voluntary childlessness, Women
Subject categories Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology), Gender Studies

Abstract

© 2019 by the authors. This article explores voluntarily childless women's experiences and understandings of human-animal interactions and their attitudes towards companion animals. It draws on interviews with 15 Swedish women who expressed a lack of "maternal" feelings and therefore had remained voluntarily childless, or childfree (used here as two interchangeable concepts). Instead, the women described how they perceived the attachment bonds to companion animals that they had developed as similar to, or even superior to, the attachments bonds between parents and their children. The article thus introduces the expressions "peternal", and "peternal feelings", to denote these women's attachment bonds to companion animals (primarily cats and dogs). The results, however, also illustrate that few of the women actually took on the role as "pet parent". Although they longed to develop attachment bonds with companion animals, they were conflicted and experienced ambivalence, leading to decisions to develop avoidance strategies, resembling those involved in the childfree decision. Hence, many of them described themselves as both childfree and "petfree".

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