The social construction of infertility

Arthur Greil, Julia McQuillan, Kathleen Slauson-Blevins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

41 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Health and illness are not objective states but socially constructed categories. We focus here on infertility, a phenomenon that has shifted from being seen as a private problem of couples to being seen as a medical condition. Studying infertility provides an ideal vantage point from which to study such features of health care as inter-societal and cross-cultural disparities in health care, the relationship between identity and health, gender roles, and social and cultural variations in the process of medicalization. Infertility is stratified, both globally and within Western societies. Access to care is extremely limited for many women in developing societies and also for marginalized women in some highly industrialized societies. We also discuss the ways in which responses to infertility are influenced by the process of self-definition. The experience of infertility is profoundly shaped by varying degrees of pronatalism and patriarchy. In advanced industrial societies, where voluntary childfree status is acknowledged, many women experience infertility as a 'secret stigma'; in other cultures, where motherhood is normative for all women, infertility may be impossible to hide. In the West, acceptance of the medical model is virtually hegemonic, but in other societies medical interpretations of infertility coexist with traditional interpretations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)736-746
Number of pages11
JournalSociology Compass
Volume5
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1 2011

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social construction
society
Marburger Bund
health care
industrial society
medicalization
interpretation
patriarchy
motherhood
health
gender role
experience
illness
acceptance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)

Cite this

The social construction of infertility. / Greil, Arthur; McQuillan, Julia; Slauson-Blevins, Kathleen.

In: Sociology Compass, Vol. 5, No. 8, 01.08.2011, p. 736-746.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Greil, Arthur ; McQuillan, Julia ; Slauson-Blevins, Kathleen. / The social construction of infertility. In: Sociology Compass. 2011 ; Vol. 5, No. 8. pp. 736-746.
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