Thesis Title

The Experience of Childlessness for Women in Midlife Who Delayed Childbearing Until It Was Too Late

Graduation Date

Spring 1995

Document Type

Master's Thesis

Document Form


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy

Degree Granting Institution

Notre Dame de Namur University

Program Name

Art Therapy


The purpose of this study is to add to the body of knowledge concerning the psychological experience of women in midlife who delayed childbearing until it was too late. The researcher hypothesizes that these women have varying degrees of unresolved grief and loss concerning unborn children and potential motherhood.

The researcher also suggests that, through the process of art therapy, participants will uncover hidden or unacknowledged aspects of their childlessness leading to a more complete understanding and expression of the personal meaning of their experience.

The sample population consisted of nine well- educated, Caucasian women between the ages of forty and fifty-five, who lived within a 100 mile radius of San Francisco. The results showed that through the art therapy process, previously unacknowledged or forgotten themes came into the participants' awareness, which expanded their experiential expressions. For all of the participants, themes of unresolved grief and loss emerged in varying degrees including emotional isolation, anger, sadness, ambivalence and emptiness.

At the same time, positive themes of fulfillment, richness of life experience, satisfaction, and connection emerged indicating that, though they experienced loss around childlessness, the participants also viewed their lives as personally meaningful; they were focused on their midlife developmental tasks; and they were actively engaged in the process of resolving their losses related to childlessness.

The researcher discusses implications for the use of group art therapy with this population and comments on symbolism used in the visual imagery.