According to Merlo (2002), procreation is the function of the family; every man takes a wife apparently to have children for the continuity of his name and linage and for general productivity and development in the society. In traditional Igbo society, many wives try to ensure the procreation of children to its fullest limit. Where this main purpose of marriage is not forth coming into fulfillment it results to tension.
Zastrow (2001), identified reasons couples decided to have children, from the origin, biblically, having children is a blessed event and ranging from religion to ideology to economic necessity and cultural expectation. Historically, in agricultural and pre-industrial societies children were seen as economic asset; their labors were important in planting and harvesting crops and in tending domestic animals. Parents wanted large families to help with the work because, children were seen as economic asset, and values were gradually established that it was natural and desirable for married couples to procreate.
In a typical traditional society childlessness has been regarded as great personal tragedy involving much emotional pain and grief, especially when it results from the failure to conceive (infertility) or when it results from the death of a child (Charlene, 2007).
According to Mccury (2005), before conception was well understood, childlessness was usually blamed on the woman and this in itself added to the high negative emotional and social effects of childlessness. The concept “childlessness” can be seen in two senses in this study. Rowland (2001), Merlo (2002), and Zastrow (2001) describe childlessness as the willingness to have children but they are not forth coming and childlessness as the ability to have children but decide not to. Childlessness as the unwillingness to have children implies to married couples that choose not to have children and this is termed “child free”. In the same vein childlessness as the willingness to have children refers to married couples that are ready and willing to have children but are not able and this is the termed “involuntary childlessness” (Zastrow 2001), this is the concern of this study.
Some wealthy families also adopt children as a means of providing heirs in case of childlessness. The monetary incentives offered by the westerner’s desire for children are so strong that a commercial market in the child laundering business exists. Merlo (2002) and Rowland (2001) are of opinion that childlessness is concern, partly with its implications for the maintenance of society and partly because of its consequences for individual. Childlessness has a function of population control but that is not the concern of this study. The main focus of this study is the effects and implication of childlessness for married couples in the society.
Throughout the world and particularly in African societies, the word “childlessness” sends a cold signal and the sense of pity is immediately aroused. Having children is necessary for married couples and is considered as a major necessity in marriage. From cultural and traditional perspective the reason for marriage is for procreation, continuity of linage and impact or transferring cultural values and norm form one generation to another within the society (Gibson 2002).
In modern world, “childlessness” denotes merely the absence of children. The term has intimations of loss and bereavement, but technically applies to any without children; whether this is by choice, by circumstance, or by biology is undermined.
The social construction in many cultures is that men and women are meant to become parents and that women especially socialized to become mothers (Gibson, Meyer and Dyer 2002) found that most of the married women considered fertility as the primary function of being a woman. Becoming a parent will often corroborate feeling of self worth and sexual identity when people have been socialized into that role. In essence, the social construction of the role of mothers and fathers has become a part of the identities of man and woman in the society. A study conducted by Gibson and Meyers (2002) indicates that in general women experience more negative effects than men throughout the entire involuntarily childless diagnostic and treatment process. Women experience a greater sense of loss of control than men, and have a greater tendency to blame themselves for the couple’s infertility. Adding to this, women are more likely to perceive childlessness as simply unacceptable. Many authors suggest that women experience a more difficult adjustment to infertility than their partners, due in large part to the emphasis in our society on the role of women as mothers.
The purpose of this study is to explore the phase women endure from being childless and to highlight some of the complexities underpinning childlessness and its impacts on married couple, and family in Awgu Local Government Area of Enugu state and also to gain deeper insight into how women incorporated this experience into their lives and relationships and how they began to create a future life without their own biological children.
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