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Childless in an IVF-nation: online stigma-coping strategies in support groups for childless Israeli women

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Drawing from stigma theory, this study examines strategies for coping with stigma in online support forums for Israeli childless women. Quantitative content analysis of two online support forums and in-depth interviews with group members ‐ for voluntarily childless and for infertile Israeli women ‐ are used to address the study’s research questions. Childbearing is highly valued in Israeli society and women who do not become mothers end up to be widely and deeply stigmatized. Results indicate that the type of stigma and the social context play an important role in the use of online stigma-coping strategies. Posts discussing stigma dominate both forums. Members of both groups use group identification as a stigma-coping strategy and develop a sense of community to cope with stigma. Nevertheless, group identification is more common in the fertility group, while the stigma challenging occurs significantly more in the voluntarily childless group. Excerpts from interviews with group members shed light on the motivations and benefits of becoming forum members. By addressing the role of computer-mediated communication in coping with the Israeli childless stigma, this study contributes to the stigma and feminist literature by highlighting the ways local pronatalist norms influence the manifestation of different coping strategies in online environments.
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Keywords: Israel; Stigma; computer-mediated communication; coping strategies; infertility; sexuality

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Communication Studies, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva, Israel

Publication date: October 3, 2018

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