Costs and benefits of parenthood in Sweden: quantitative and qualitative evidence

Disa Bergnehr, The Department of Child Studies, Linköping University
Eva Bernhardt, Stockholm University

The Swedish research project ‘Family and working life in the 21st century’ consists of a quantitative and qualitative part. The main goal is to broaden our understandings of young adults’ attitudes and values regarding family formation as well as to study the relationship between attitudes and demographic behaviour. In this paper, we present findings on how young Swedes refer to costs and benefits of becoming a parent in panel surveys as well as in focus group interviews with informants who have not yet entered parenthood as well as first time parents. The quantitative data set consists of information from three questionnaire surveys for about 3500 respondents, aged 28-40 at the time of the third wave in 2009. Among the many attitudinal questions included in the survey questionnaires, one was intended to measure parenthood attitudes. Childless respondents were asked to indicate, on a scale from 1 to 5, whether they expected less personal freedom, economic problems, less time fro friends, a better partner relationship, and/or a more meaningful life, as a result of becoming a parent. In addition, those who had already become parents were asked how they perceived the effect of becoming a parent in these regards. When the focus group participants talked about parenthood, they recurrently referred to a range of tribulations. When the deferment of parenthood is justified, parenthood is pictured as restricting for personal development and experiences. However, when the desire to enter into parenthood is understood, parenthood is referred to as entailing personal development and progress. A common answer among both parents and non-parents is that a child legitimates a change of focus in life, from individual self-fulfilment to the child.

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Presented in Poster Session 1