Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




The demographics of the United States are rapidly changing and the traditional nuclear family is no longer considered the norm. Alternative families such as single parents, multi generational families, bi-racial families, nonmarital cohabitation, step families, and gay families are only some of the newly acknowledged family structures emerging. In the 1970s and 1980s the decision to remain voluntarily childless by choice was also seen as an alternative family structure and was researched. Unfortunately, this population is rarely examined today though projections indicate that due to a variety of factors they will probably continue to increase in number. One consistent finding in the research of voluntarily childless couples is their lower scores on measures of religiosity, compared to couples with children. However, the related construct of spirituality, which is rapidly gaining acceptance within the field of psychology, has never been considered as a variable in relationship to the choice to have or not have children.

This study examined the construct of spirituality in couples with children and voluntarily childless couples. A demographic sheet and the Index of Core Spiritual Experiences (INSPIRIT) were used to explore the spirituality between these two populations. Participants were required to be married adults and they were solicited through the Internet in both chat rooms and on several posting boards. Information was sent via email and the overwhelming majority responded through the same medium. SPSS was used to analyze the data and analyses of variance (ANOVAs) and cross-tab analyses were conducted.

Results indicate that there was a significant difference in religiosity scores between the two groups, supporting previous research. Interestingly, there was no difference between the two groups on total INSPIRIT scores, although the couples with children did score higher on several experiencial scores than the voluntarily childless couples. This study also discussed possible ways to integrate these findings into training programs emphasizing the importance of incorporating spirituality into the conceptualization of people.