Intentions, uncertainty, and ambivalence in fertility decisions

Laura Bernardi, Université de Lausanne
Monika Mynarska, Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University
Clémentine Rossier, Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED)

Fertility intentions may be more or less defined or ambiguous for individuals and couples. This paper is devoted to the analysis of individuals’ accounts of their fertility intentions in relation to their partnership, their family orientations, their life course situation and perspectives. We develop a typology of fertility intentions to understand the meaning attributed to desiring, intending, and planning a child in contemporary Europe. Narrative data are the basis of a comparative content analysis of fertility intentions in contexts characterized by very diverse fertility patterns. We use interviews from France, eastern and western Germany, various regions in Italy, Poland and Bulgaria. Results provide an empirically grounded typology of individual fertility intentions ranging from rather defined to uncertain and ambivalent intentions. Life course orientations and contingencies are shown to relate to one or the other typology in systematic ways. In particular we examine the way in which the degree of certainty concerning fertility intentions depends on social networks, age norms about parenthood, perspectives of childlessness, and uncertainty related to other life course spheres. Findings are interpreted in dialogue with the theory of planned behavior and the results based on survey data coming from representative populations in the same countries.

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Presented in Session 22: Fertility intentions and fertility realization