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Open AccessArticle

Why Would You Want a Baby When You Could Have a Dog?” Voluntarily Childless Women’s “Peternal” Feelings, Longing and Ambivalence

Department of Sociology and Work Science, University of Gothenburg, SE-405 30 Gothenburg, Sweden
FoU Södertörn, SE-136 44 Handen, Sweden
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Soc. Sci. 2019, 8(4), 126;
Received: 16 March 2019 / Revised: 10 April 2019 / Accepted: 18 April 2019 / Published: 20 April 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue We Are Best Friends: Animals in Society)
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”. View Full-Text
Keywords: voluntary childlessness; women; pets; “peternal” voluntary childlessness; women; pets; “peternal”
MDPI and ACS Style

Peterson, H.; Engwall, K. “Why Would You Want a Baby When You Could Have a Dog?” Voluntarily Childless Women’s “Peternal” Feelings, Longing and Ambivalence. Soc. Sci. 2019, 8, 126.

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