Why Women Choose to Remain Child-Free

Tauriq Moosa has looked at the bizarre stigma around people – especially women – who voluntarily decide not to procreate. This includes: 

  • Not having children is a ‘bad decision’
  • Life is meaningless without children
  • ‘You’re a “crazy” cat lady in training.’ (This is ableist and so doubly awful)
  • The decision is selfish and you’ll eventually regret it
  • ‘You’ll change your mind when you meet the right man’
  • ‘What are you waiting for?’
  • ‘Your biological clock is ticking’
  • ‘You’d be a great mum’
  • ‘You think you don’t want kids but when you have them you’ll change your mind’
  • Your partner will eventually leave you unless you have kids
  • ‘You don’t know what real love is’
  • No one will be around to look after you when you’re old.

There’s some excellent sociology on this topic of why people choose to remain child-free. For example, Janet Wheeler notes that in Australia, 24% of women are child-free, and only 7% of this is due to infertility. The rest are a mixture of circumstance (e.g. break-up of a relationship) or a conscious decision not to have children.

Continue reading Why Women Choose to Remain Child-Free

Why Correlation is not Causation: Cannabis Use and Schizophrenia

As so often happens, a post from Science on Google+, a community I help moderate, has got me thinking about how easy it is for headlines to quickly lead to #ScienceMediaHype . A post with a link to a news story has the headline, “Teen Marijuana Use Linked with Schizophrenia.” As a sociologist with an interest in mental health, this sets off alarm bells. The discussion on our community quickly turned into a debate about the correlation presented in the headline. As a few of our community members pointed out, correlation does not equal causation.  My post provides a summary of the actual study and I discuss the sociological problems associated with media coverage of mental illness. Continue reading Why Correlation is not Causation: Cannabis Use and Schizophrenia

Science Funding Cuts in Australia


Catriona Wimberley, PhD candidate in medical physics, is studying neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. She has written a great piece for SBS News, arguing that in the current political climate, the future direction of scientific research in Australia is bleak.  Continue reading Science Funding Cuts in Australia

How to Make Surveys Inclusive of Transgender and Intersex People

Tips from xxboy:

Researchers, take note.

It is incredibly disappointing (not to mention invalidating and possibly dysphoria-inducing) for a trans* or intersex person to voluntarily begin a survey being advertised to the LGBT or LGBTQI+ community only to have their identity/identities not represented. And this happens ALL the time.

Fortunately, there are actually really easy ways that people constructing and promoting these surveys can avoid this! And if you don’t do LGBTQI+-specific research, most of these rules, specifically those tackling demographic questionnaires, will still be relevant to you! Continue reading How to Make Surveys Inclusive of Transgender and Intersex People

Video on the Sociology of Evaluation

I made a video for my educational website, Sociology at Work. We have a new YouTube channel that will feature interviews with sociologists about how they use sociology outside academia. Our first guest is Dr Yoland Wadsworth who has been working in community services and evaluation for over four decades.

Continue reading Video on the Sociology of Evaluation

19th Century Migrants in North Head in Manly, Sydney

In the 19th century, North Head in Manly, Sydney, became established as Australia’s oldest quarantine station. SBS Australia has chronicled the evolving archaeological study of this historic site. Over 13,000 migrants from all over the world were quarantined there between 1828 and 1984. Archaeologist Annie Clarke says around 580, 600 people died and were buried in three cemeteries at the station. Many more became ill, while others survived and were resettled in Australian society. Clarke is studying over 100 inscriptions on the site, put there by migrants, and her team of researchers are also interviewing descendants of these migrants who arrived by sea.

Continue reading 19th Century Migrants in North Head in Manly, Sydney

Science as Creative Learning

The research on “emotional learning” in science presents an interesting model for engaging young people in science. As Dr Louisa Tomas Engel explains in the video  below, young people’s interest in science drops dramatically in the middle years of school. Tomas  Engel’s broader research draws on new pedagogical practices which aim to help young people see science as a creative endeavour, rather than a memory retention exercise. This research may be of interest to science educators, biodiversity researchers, as well as other scientists who are eager to grow public outreach.

Continue reading Science as Creative Learning

Sexual Harassment in Anthropology

A preliminary survey of 98 women and 23 male anthropologists finds 30% have been verbally abused whilst carrying out field work. A further 63% of women and 39% of men have faced sexualised comments in the field and 21% of women have been physically harassed – mostly by senior researchers in their field team. The study is being extended as more field researchers come forward and share their stories.

One of the study’s researchers, Professor Kathryn Clancy, says that as more people complete the survey, it is apparent that sexual abuse in the field is more common, but women researchers do not speak up fearing the consequences on their academic careers:

“Taken together, these factors result in a particularly vulnerable population of victims and witnesses powerless to intervene. As a discipline, we need to recognize and remedy that an appreciable non-zero number of our junior colleagues, particularly women, are having to endure harassment and a hostile work environment in order to be scientists.”

Debt Amongst American Youth: Mixed Economic Outcomes

The Pew Research Centre reports that the proportion young people who own homes went down to 34% in 2011 compared to 40% in 2001. Also in 2011, only 66% of people aged 25 years or younger owned or leased a car compared to 73% of young people in 2001.

Good news is that credit card debt is down to 39% in 2010, in comparison to 50% of youth who had credit debt in 2001. Bad news is that student loan debt rose from 34% in 2007 to 40% in 2010. Then again, debt trends are mixed, as the median debt for young people is now $14,102, which is around $1,000 less than in 2007. These patterns reflect a shift in economic priorities after the recession as well as broader changes in society that include delayed marriage, which impacts on household formation and spending. 

Sociology Conundrum: Which Came First, the Chicken or the Egg?

Close up of a chicken's head with its eyes seemingly accusingly with the title Sociology Conundrum -Which Came First the Chicken or the Egg

Jemaine from Flight of the Conchords says, 'which came first the chicken or the egg?'Sociology text books often use the “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” conundrum to socialise students about the structure versus agency debate. That is, do societies shape individual choices, or do individuals have power and influence over the way in which societies are organised?

John Macionis and Ken Plummer talk about this as a classic question that relates to the way we see history: as the outcome of human action. How does the education system work? We need to understand not just the laws that make education mandatory, but also the legislators who provided the legal framework for how teachers are accredited, for the topics and texts that make up the curriculum, how exams are then tallied across the state, and thus impact on the educational, economic and health outcomes of every young person. This is the ‘chicken before the egg’ argument. You can’t have an educational system (or society) without individuals making decisions that determine the outcomes and mobility of others. Continue reading Sociology Conundrum: Which Came First, the Chicken or the Egg?