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‘Environmental Childlessness?’

Mathilde Krähenbühl

1. Introduction

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“Mixed-up times are overflowing with both pain and joy – with vastly unjust patterns of pain and joy, with unnecessary killing of ongoingness but also with necessary resurgence. The task is to make kin in lines of inventive connection as a practice of learning to live and die well with each other in a thick present. Our task is to make trouble, to stir up potent response to devastating events, as well as to settle troubled waters and rebuild quiet places. In urgent times, many of us are tempted to address trouble in terms of making an imagined future safe, of stopping something from happening that looms in the future, of clearing away the present and the past in order to make futures for coming generations. Staying with the trouble does not require such a relationship to times called the future. In fact, staying with the trouble requires learning to be truly present, not as a vanishing pivot between awful or edenic pasts and apocalyptic or salvific futures, but as mortal critters entwined in myriad unfinished configurations of places, times, matters, meanings.”

Donna Haraway, Staying with the trouble, 2016, 1

1“And you, do you want children in this messy world?” a friend once casually asked me. Casual but severe, our discussion oscillated between potentiality and impossibility, hope and despair, deep desire and constraints. The point of departure for this project was the personal awareness that this question is hardly solvable. Not only because whether or not to have children is a question that typically generates inarticulate answers (Overall, 2012), but because of a palpable incapacity of people to project themselves into the future. In further informal discussions, I was able to grasp how much concerns over the environment were impeding people’s life plans and how difficult it was for some people to take responsibility for a life other than their own in the future. Yes, uncertainty seems manageable for us. We will make it, or not, and that is fine. However, uncertainty makes it hard to assume responsibility for other human beings.

2Beyond my social environment, these concerns are flourishing in news and opinion articles, radio, and TV programmes. Different public polls examining reproductive intentions have captured these emerging environmental concerns and provide illustrative figures. In 2018, Morning Consult conducted a survey for the New York Times: 33% of respondents cited climate change as a factor in deciding to have fewer children than their ideal number, and 11% cited climate change as a factor in deciding not to have children at all (Miller, 2018). Two years later, 14.3% of a sample of 18- to 44-year-old Americans cited climate change as a “major concern” for not having children (Morning Consult, 2020). In France, 24% of those surveyed by YouGov stated that climate change would “absolutely” and “most likely” influence their decision to have children (YouGov, 2019; see Lorenzo, 2019).

3Meanwhile, the decision to remain childless remains marginal. Having children is portrayed as a decision based on desire and natural instinct, a decision somehow banal or, at least, relegated to the untouchable sphere of ‘private life.’ However, as paradoxical as it may seem, everyone has an opinion on the reasons why people may refuse parenthood. Indeed, what struck me throughout this research were the reactions I encountered when explaining my project. Those who take environmental crises into consideration in their life plans remain misunderstood, if not judged. Indeed, the ways we commonly approach ‘environmental despair’ tend to relegate environmental concerns to the realm of personal anxieties or irrational beliefs about apocalyptic futures. Therefore, this research is a response to negative stereotypes of voluntarily childless people.

1.1 Re-engaging a Polarising Topic

4Not only does this research respond to reductive representations of people who call parenthood into question for environmental reasons, it also serves to fill in a surprising gap in the literature. When I first became interested in the interconnection between reproduction and environmental issues, I had not imagined how polarising this topic might be. Indeed, the entanglement between demography, reproductive justice, and environmental depletion is inseparable from histories of colonial violence, systemic racism, and patriarchal domination. Following Thomas Malthus’ legacy, the idea that population growth fosters environmental depletion impeded environmental movements in the second half of the twentieth century. Protecting the environment became synonymous with controlling population growth, leading to coercive birth control policies primarily directed toward marginalised communities and countries in the so-called ‘Global South.’

  • 1 ‘Overpopulation’ is a controversial term. However, I do not systematically use quotation marks to l (...)

5Because of this strong association with ‘overpopulation’ discourses,1 the interconnection between reproduction and environmental degradation has become very sensitive. Nevertheless, a few isolated thinkers and initiatives have tried to articulate this connection in ways that challenge ambivalent and slippery neo-Malthusian arguments. First and foremost, I am thinking of the work of Donna Haraway, particularly in her latest book, Staying with the Trouble, from which I quoted the opening lines of this dissertation. She has also co-edited a volume with Adele E. Clarke (2018) which regroups the works of feminist science and technology scholars and specifically addresses the ‘population question’. Observing that the feminist left and critical voices had almost capitulated in the face of the horror of misogyny, eugenics, and racism, they asked:

“Why haven’t the issues of warped distributions of resources and densities of human beings in conditions of structural injustice and forced displacement been systematically examined by more feminists as fundamental, including the question of increasing numbers of people?” (Clarke, 2018, 9)

6Their urgent call to re-engage with the idea that human numbers have consequences on the planet and play a role in the futures we can imagine is not blind to the atrocities caused by population control policies. Quite the contrary, they insist on the impossibility of approaching mass extinctions without simultaneously legitimising having children among groups that have been historically prevented from doing so. They firmly stand against the “dehumanized ‘thingness’ of population” (Ibid, 14) to approach the multiple and conflicting meanings associated with ‘population’. The key to their innovative perspective is that we can emphasise different ways of making kin across species, cultures, and nation-states to decentralise biological kinship, which is overly predominant in our system. That they imagine alternatives to biological children does not transform them into ‘anti-natalist’ figures. Instead, they denounce the paradox that we do not live in a pro-child world even if it is deeply pronatalist.

7Alongside Haraway and her colleagues, Matthew Schneider-Mayerson and Kit Ling Leong (2020) have paved the way for the further academic development of this topic, a task I have embraced with enthusiasm. Noticing that people consider the future well-being of children more than overpopulation in their reproductive intentions, they have opened up new ways to think through the connection between reproduction and environmental degradation. Following this renewed interest, I ask the following research questions: How do environmental concerns (re)shape reproductive intentions? What is the space allocated to environmental motives in people’s decision not to procreate, and what are the possible forms of environmental motives? And, finally, what is the pathway towards ‘environmental childlessness’?

8This research inscribes itself within a desire to re-complexify the ways in which people connect reproductive intentions and environmental crises. We need such complexity in a context where environmental concerns continue to be downplayed in western societies. ‘Uncertainty’ and ‘crisis’ are socially, culturally, and historically constructed notions and categories. Nonetheless, it is important not to undermine the ‘realness’ of global environmental changes - without falling into the trap of ‘scientific determinism’ - and to find ways to illustrate their impacts on human ways of living. Unfortunately, even though we can multiply the examples that underscore these changes and their impacts, there is a persistent tendency to refer to climate change as a ‘crisis in the making’. In other words, we still need to demonstrate that ‘it is happening now’, and looking at ‘environmental childlessness’ is one way to do so.

1.2 Voluntary Childlessness, Environmental Crisis, and Ethics

9Considering the scarcity of scholarship on ‘environmental childlessness’, I decided to combine very different research fields. Each of these fields suffers from certain lacunae, and I have looked for complementary explanations to merge them together. On the one hand, literature on childless/childfree people has neglected the environmental driver for voluntary childlessness. On the other hand, environmental studies have not addressed the impact of environmental depletion on reproduction in western societies. Finally, the anthropology of ethics appears as a scholarship that offers the opportunity to articulate interesting bonds with the two primary fields.

10Firstly, this project contributes to the body of research on childless/childfree experiences. Following the increasing interest in human reproduction, neglected for decades as a valid category of social analysis, this scholarship results from the observation that “certain reproductive topics continue to be overprivileged at the expense of others” (van Balen and Inhorn, 2001, 4). Emerging from family studies in the 1980s, childless/childfree experiences became an area of interest for disciplines as varied as sociology, demography, psychology, and medicine, among others. Anthropology is surprisingly absent, except the work of Shelly Volsche (2019), whose approach and narrative, it should be noted, highly resemble scholarship outside of anthropology that retained my attention. Since Jean E. Veevers (1973) stated that “voluntary childlessness constituted a neglected area of research”, scholarship has developed to unveil the sociological characteristics of this growing population (e.g. Heaton, Jacobson, and Fu 1992; Fiori, Rinesi, and Graham, 2017), to understand the motives of childfree people (Park, 2005), the consequences of childlessness (e.g. Mcquillan et al., 2012; Somers 1993; McMullin and Marshall 1996), and people’s experiences of stigma and resistance (e.g. Park, 2002; Matthews and Desjardins, 2016; Morison et al., 2016; Debest, 2014).

11Although we are generally witnessing an increasing interest in voluntary childlessness (Shapiro, 2014), the understanding of the environmental reasons behind childlessness is limited. While scholars generally agree that the expansion of women’s opportunities and the reconfiguration of the family have transformed the contexts in which adults navigate fertility decisions, the potential role played by environmental crises has been almost a non-issue. I could only identify a few references to population growth concerns regarding the motivations of childfree people (see Houseknecht 1987; Park, 2005). Moreover, while childlessness has been generally conceptualised as a relevant case to investigate the modern family in and of itself, I suggest looking at it as a vector of ecological interrogations and (im)possible futures. At the same time, even though the literature has neglected the environmental dimension, ‘environmental childlessness’ cannot be detached from broader dynamics shaping the relatively recent appeal of childfree modes of living. Therefore, I primarily draw from scholars interested in the experiences of the voluntarily childless community, how social pressure is exerted, and the answers deployed by the people concerned.

12Secondly, different examples of research that touch upon the ways societies negotiate environmental changes – perhaps best designated by the term ‘environmental studies’ – also inform this project. Environmental social movements have mainly interested sociologists and I draw on some of their work to contextualise the emergence of environmental values and concerns in Euro-American societies (e.g. Inglehart 1977; 1990; Cotgrove 1982). Less interested in environmental social movements, anthropologists have looked at how environmental changes transform local ways of living. Indeed, while climate change is a concrete manifestation of the ‘global’, it creates highly local experiences. Anthropology, it is argued, “appear[s] to be making strides at relating global warming models to everyday lives” (Brown 1999, 1141). Observations about how climate change already alters symbolic and subsistence cultures have mostly been conducted with indigenous communities (e.g. Crate, 2008), with a significant interest in the ways various communities adapt to rapidly changing environments.

13This interest in ‘adaptation’ has allowed anthropologists to demonstrate that reactions to climate change cannot be approached as a kind of technical adjustment as they involve the need to frame responses that accord with social and cultural parameters (Oliver-Smith, 2017, 209). Arguing that communities do not only react to change but also anticipate the future, Kirsten Hastrup (2018) similarly demonstrates that anticipation does not occur outside ethical concerns. Even though ‘adaptation’ encompasses elements of ‘anticipation’, I prefer the latter to approach ‘environmental childlessness.’ Indeed, it captures the orientation towards possible futures and leaves empty space for ‘uncertainty’ and ‘imagination’ as analytical concepts more than ‘adaptation’, understood as a response to past events.

14Nevertheless, indigenous communities are not the only ones where adaptation is observable – although they experience climate changes dramatically. As noted by Shirley Fiske and her colleagues (2015, 21), “[t]hose affected [by climate change] include both place-based communities who have a direct and daily interaction with their environment, as well as wider communities of faith who recognize that climate changes have altered their ways of orienting to the world.” Part of this reorientation is driven by the great role played by environmental hazards in transforming modern societies into “risk societies” (see Beck, 2000; Giddens, 2009). Environmental risks challenge the optimistic assumption that the future is manageable and “[i]ncreased consciousness of it, today, haunts us more than any sense of ends to come” (Buell, 2010, 30). Whereas environmental studies underscore the tangibility of climate change, reproduction remains surprisingly absent, as it if was not affected by these dramatic changes. On the contrary, I draw from the notions of ‘risk’, ‘uncertainty’, and ‘anticipation’, to discuss ‘environmental childlessness’ as a way of ‘anticipating dark futures’ and shedding light on what generates my interlocutors’ sense of insecurity.

15Finally, struck by the ethical takes of my interlocutors, explicit in the interviews, I propose to look at the anthropology of ethics and morality. The most debated issue in this field is where anthropologists should look for ethics and what constitutes morality (Mattingly and Throop, 2018). Put in an over-simplifying way, a few scholars locate ethics in the ordinary (e.g. Lambek, 2010; Das, 2015; 2012), while others maintain that ethics are a space of conscious negotiation of sometimes opposed sets of moral values, a singular moment of extraction and reflection (e.g. Robbins, 2004; 2007; Laidlaw, 2002; 2014; Zigon, 2007).

16The ‘ordinary ethics’ posture developed in response to a common disregard for the residual category of the ‘everyday’, as well as in opposition to the view that posits ethics as values that only serve as guiding principles for behaving ethically. According to Michael Lambek (2010, 1), “given our consciousness, our socialization and sociality, and our use of language, we are fundamentally ethical.” Therefore, ethics are intrinsic to human action. Veena Das shares this view and goes so far as to argue that habit is the site where anthropologists can trace the working of ordinary ethics. Through her ethnographic work in low-income neighbourhoods in Delhi, she demonstrates the relevance of a shift “from ethics as made up of judgments we arrive at when we stand away from our ordinary practices to that of thinking of the ethical as a dimension of everyday life in which we are not aspiring to escape the ordinary but rather to descend into it as a way of becoming moral subjects” (Das, 2012, 134).

17This view contrasts with that of Jarrett Zigon (2007). To be able to observe ethics, a task that has become impossible since Durkheim (see 1953, 35–62) conflated the moral and the social, he argues, anthropologists should turn their attention towards what he calls “moral breakdowns”. Building his argument on the work of Martin Heidegger (1996), these ethical dilemmas that emerge in particular situations or life events extract the individual from the unreflective way of ‘being-in-the-world’. However, this does not mean that the individual was not moral before. On the contrary, most people consider themselves and others as moral most of the time. However, the ‘ethical moment’ is a moment of consciousness, a reflexive moment of creativity during which the individual navigates the usually implicit system of values inscribed in their worldview. While the return to the comfortable way of being-in-the world is the primary goal of ethics, Zigon (2007, 138) nonetheless insists that this return does not bring the individual back to the same moral predicaments. Instead, the ethical moment pushes people to “work on themselves” and often alter the ways they relate to the world (Ibid). Therefore, the incentive to respond to ethical demands, weighing upon us from time to time, is not to be found in a motivation ‘to be good’ but to get out of the breakdown (Ibid, 139).

18Nonetheless, these two different understandings of what constitutes morality and ethics are not as polarised as they sometimes appear. For instance, Throop and Zigon (2014, 3) suggest that their contribution is in their careful analysis of the everydayness of moral experiences. Hence it appears that Zigon might not be necessarily opposed to the notion of the ‘everyday’ but rather to Lambek’s view according to which ethical judgement is intrinsic to social activity because there are always criteria already in place (Ibid, 2). Recognising that “there are always criteria” portrays ethics as the capacity to balance social normativity by evaluating existing rules and elides that some moral experiences cannot be understood as normative social behaviour (Ibid). On the other hand, Das (2012, 42) notes that her “descent into the ordinary” does not mean that individuals cannot critique their culture or improve their conditions of life. Instead, it merely means that they would not do so by falling back on transcendental values but rather cultivating everyday sensibilities (Ibid).

19As much as it is tempting to understand “moral breakdowns” in opposition to the daily enactment of ethics because they recall the idea that ethics are ‘out there’, this research instead follows the efforts of anthropologists who have merged the ‘ordinary’ and the ‘extraordinary’ (e.g. Mattingly, 2014). Furthermore, as I read through the literature, it became clear that the somehow recent interest in the ‘good’ life shed an interesting light on ‘environmental childlessness.’ The exploration of how people thrive on living a ‘meaningful’ life even in dire circumstances falls within the move from “dark anthropology” to “the anthropology of the good” (see Ortner, 2016). Joel Robbins (2013) highlighted the necessity to take distance from the “suffering object,” which had become the primary object of anthropological attention since the early 1990s. Following Robbins, I believe that it is worth turning our attention towards “the way people orientate to and act in a world that outstrips the one most concretely present to them” as a way to “explore the different ways people organize their personal and collective lives in order to foster what they think of as good” (Ibid, 457).

20Apparently evolving separately, these three research fields are interconnected. Even though the impacts of the perception of environmental crises on procreation have been neglected, demographic research has been conducted on the links between uncertainty and fertility (e.g. Trinitapoli and Yeatman, 2018; Johnson-Hanks, 2005). Notwithstanding that ‘uncertainty’ in these works refers to economic instability, research has shown that procreation increases or decreases in different contexts of uncertainty. While the malleable nature of fertility preferences is widely accepted, the ways in which uncertainty affects reproduction are unclear and multiple. Looking at the sharp decline in Russia in the 1990s, Elizabeth Brainerd (2007) observed that, although measures of instability and procreation show little correlation, women with positive expectations about the future were less likely to abort than women with negative expectations. Differently, studying rural Nepal, John Sandberg (2006) demonstrated that women’s fertility increased when child survival is uncertain. Overall, Jennifer Johnson-Hanks (e.g. 2002; 2011) built a consistent critique of theories that reduce fertility to planned action and assume clarity and predictability about the future instead of considering the messiness of human life. Looking at Cameroon, she described how flexibility in reproductive preferences alleviates the general sense of crisis, allowing people to adapt more easily to uncertain life events. Even though my research does not address demographic levels of analysis, this emphasis on uncertainty underscores the assertion that various contexts affect people’s reproductive intentions.

21Central to how these three fields of research overlap is the idea that uncertainty and risks open up spaces for ethical negotiation. As noted by Beck (2007, 5): “The category of risk opens up a world within and beyond the clear distinction between knowledge and non-knowing, truth and falsehood, good and evil.” Furthermore, looking at “outstripping worlds” (Robbins, 2013, 457) means looking at the liminal and uncertain space between hope and doubt, highly characteristic of contemporary entanglements between crises and the everyday. As described by Das (2015, 376), “pictures of planetary extinctions seep into our consciousness making the everyday appear as bristling with dangers rather than as a place of security and comfort.” In other words, environmental crises now penetrate people’s lives, forcing them to reconsider the future they imagined for themselves. Imagining the future comes hand in hand with looking for one’s purpose in a life often portrayed by my interlocutors as ‘meaningless’. Therefore, ethics are entangled in questions of identity as people try to make choices that make them feel as if they are ‘good’.

22Finally, Katharine Dow’s (2016) ethnography most closely approaches the entanglements between procreation, environmental concerns, and ethical work. Based on fieldwork conducted in Spey Bay, a coastal village in northeast Scotland, Dow discusses how the inhabitants, who for the most part work in nature protection, articulate the connection between the ethics of assisted reproductive technologies (ART), endangered futures, and the ‘good’ life. One observation that runs through the book is that reproduction is entangled in people’s everyday concerns and, therefore, we should not treat reproduction as separate from the rest of life. How the inhabitants of Spey Bay invested in the place to make it a ‘good’ place to live and their accounts about the necessity to build a “stable environment” before having children “[indicate] the importance of reproduction – in humans and other parts of the natural world – in caring for the environment and working to prevent climate change” (Ibid, 47).

23Interestingly, Dow’s informants reverse my interlocutors’ conceptions of the connection between reproduction and the environment. By “endangered futures”, Dow refers to her informants’ fears about human activity becoming divorced from nature through scientific overreaching (Ibid, 98). As their anxieties were ostensibly directed at the natural world – materialised in their commitment to species survival – the inhabitants of Spey Bay were worried about future human infertility caused by pollution and the pervasive use of reproductive technology. Indeed, these various elements threaten the ‘naturalness’ of reproduction. While my interlocutors reconsider their reproductive intentions to adopt more ecological ways of living, the impact of increasing population on the planet was not a common topic in Spey Bay. Instead, the overall quest for the ‘good’ life goes hand in hand with the necessity to secure a healthy environment for future children. Although Dow’s work invites us to consider reproduction, environmental concerns, and ethics in relation to each other, her findings offer the opportunity to compare my interlocutors’ experiences with contrasting narratives.

1.3 Mapping the Argument

24In chapter 3, I contextualise the more or less recent appeal of childless lifestyles. While feminist movements during the second half of the twentieth century participated in normalising voluntary childlessness, pronatalist injunctions to motherhood have transformed and continue to assign gendered and binary reproductive roles within the nuclear family. In this context, scholars became interested in what propels people not to have babies. Whereas the reasons are multiple, I problematise ‘childlessness’ as a category that conveys notions such as ‘desire’ and ‘choice’ when these cannot be taken for granted – noticing that this is particularly salient amidst environmental uncertainty. Alongside the idea that starting a family is a rational decision that couples should mature at length, significant literature emphasises that ‘voluntary childlessness’ reflects the emergence of an autonomous individual looking for self-optimisation. Instead, following the work of scholars who observed a more radical rejection of motherhood, I argue that my interlocutors’ childlessness reveals a broader politicisation. Even though some of them correspond to the dominant picture of ‘childfree’ people looking for freedom, their pathways towards childlessness also articulate a rejection of the heteronormative nuclear family, its reproduction of gendered parental roles, and its unequal distribution of the household workload.

25The aim of chapter 4 is to relocate the environmental dimension into the complex assemblage of reasons presented in chapter 3. I start by contextualising the emergence of ‘new environmentalism’ and the recent entry of ‘collapse’ into environmental movements to present my interlocutors as vectors of particular ecological thinking. Then, I focus more specifically on the entanglements between reproduction and environmental degradation, and I go back to Malthus’ legacy to explain why overpopulation discourses are polarising. I also expose that ‘uncertainty’ and ‘inhabitable futures’ progressively compete with the dominant trope of ‘overpopulation’, exemplifying the over-simplification sometimes deployed by the media. Following the results of the first empirical research about people who factor climate change into their reproductive intentions (see Schneider-Mayerson and Leong, 2020), my interlocutors’ accounts confirm the predominant attention given to uncertainty. Finally, I support Servigne and Stevens’ denunciation of the impossibility of evoking potential collapse without being categorised under various mocking etiquettes. Rather than being neo-Malthusian or irrational survivalists, my interlocutors incorporate their anti-capitalist political beliefs and environmental anticipation into their life projects.

26Chapter 5 supports scholarship that demonstrates that both the development of environmental values and reproduction raise ethical dilemmas. Adding layers of analysis to the two previous chapters, I argue that reproductive norms should be approached in relation to the ethical experience coalesced by environmental crises, experiences highly informed by feelings of responsibility. Building upon the ‘overpopulation-uncertainty’ continuum exposed in chapter 4, the attribution of responsibility either results from the CO2 matrix according to which all our actions have an environmental impact, or it results from feelings of guilt towards future children. Following the former, childlessness is portrayed as an individualistic solution to climate change. However, for various reasons, I argue that this perspective oversimplifies my interlocutors’ ethical experiences. First, most of my interlocutors did not conceptualise childlessness as a solution to climate change. Second, care for future generations of humans and non-humans infuse their feelings of responsibility – a perspective that challenges the climate ethics argument according to which the moral object that would foster climate change mitigation is absent. Finally, the profound desire to live a ‘meaningful’ life, where utopias and actions align, nuances the idea that my interlocutors’ relationship to procreation is informed by distant moral rules that make them feel accountable. As exposed in chapter 4 about anticipation, my interlocutors embody their utopias in their life choices. This last element allows me to argue that ‘environmental childlessness’ is not necessarily an individualistic disengagement from life, but a re-engagement towards collective imagined futures.

27Returning to the debate over where to look for ethics, chapter 5 also demonstrates that ethics are better understood at the interplay between the ‘ordinary’ and the ‘extraordinary.’ As described in the previous chapter, some of my interlocutors’ environmental concerns emerged during singular moments of reflection, the term “prise de conscience” (growing awareness) appearing regularly. Indeed, uncertainty and the liminal space between hope and doubt are contexts within which ‘ethical moments’ are most likely sparked. Other snippets of experience emphasise that my interlocutors were grappling with ethical considerations daily – as much as they wished sometimes to escape them. Whereas it is tempting to approach reproductive choices as dilemmas that extract individuals from their unreflective way of being to the world, I argue that these decisions are deeply interwoven with the everyday.

28Finally, in chapter 6, I go back to how my interlocutors dealt with pronatalist injunctions and one of the first hypotheses I framed to capture ‘environmental childlessness’. As a significant part of the literature on voluntary childlessness focuses on stigma management strategies, I initially understood the environmental dimension as a way to justify a deviant pathway and perform a positive identity. However, it appeared that my interlocutors found in ecology much more than an excuse for their childlessness, and my analysis underscores the need to overcome the narrowing framework of stigma management strategies. To start with, the environmental motive does not present a particular advantage and my interlocutors did not hide the fact that children do not necessarily move them. Furthermore, childlessness is a political tool to raise awareness of global change in some cases. Finally, their interrogations around parenthood cannot be disentangled from their larger worldviews, identities, and uncertainty. Arguing that the environmental dimension is more than an excuse was only possible at the end of this dissertation, after having developed in previous chapters how reproduction has become a site of environmental and ethical interrogations.


1 ‘Overpopulation’ is a controversial term. However, I do not systematically use quotation marks to lighten the text. The same holds for other terms that I often use, such as ‘uncertainty’ or ‘voluntary childlessness’. Furthermore, I use simple quotation marks to underline critical distance, whereas I use double quotation marks when referencing secondary literature and interviews.


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