Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

Exploring Older Men’s Pathways to Childlessness in Hungary: Did the Change of Policy Regime Matter?

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Abstract:  In many post‐socialist countries, there is a strong social ideal that, in order to live a fulfilled life, men and women should have children; thus “childfree” lifestyles are much less popular than in North‐Western Europe. In this article, we explore factors leading to childlessness among men who were mostly socialized under state‐socialist conditions and in the subsequent transition period by analysing 30 in‐depth interviews conducted with heterosexual childless men over 50 in Hungary. Older interviewees who grew up in state socialism followed a standardized life‐course and went through the same life‐course events—including school, work, and, in some cases, childless marriages. However, the political change of 1989–1990 interrupted these standardized life‐courses. Our results show that, besides individual‐level factors, macro‐level factors connected to the political‐economic transition in the early 1990s influenced our interviewees’ pathways to childlessness. In this sense, we can say that the change of policy regime influenced these men’s choices, as in most cases there was a strong interplay between the individual‐ and the macro‐level factors.

Keywords:  Hungary; male childlessness; Merton’s anomie theory; pathways to childlessness; post‐transition effect



© Ivett Szalma, Judit Takács. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.