How parenthood experiences influence desire for more children in Australia: A qualitative study

Abstract

The low-fertility debate in developed countries has focused on the limits to family size posed by the financial costs of raising children, and difficulties combining work and family. Little attention has been given to the physical and socio-psychological experiences of conception, pregnancy, birth and early parenthood, and their potential effect on parity progression. Womens rising education and workforce participation rates are often seen as key factors in fertility decline, offering attractive alternatives to motherhood, but research suggests that they also undermine levels of knowledge, confidence and interest in motherhood. Demographers have made almost no link between people having fewer children than they might otherwise have had and their previous childbearing and childrearing experiences. Interviews conducted in South Australia in 2003–04 with parents of both small and large families show that fertility and family size are influenced both negatively and positively by experiences of having had children. The paper argues that if low fertility rates are to be stabilized or raised in developed countries, then researchers and policymakers must consider the physical and socio-psychological costs of having children for parents, and provide support mechanisms so that experiences of parenthood contribute as little as possible to fertility gaps and delayed fertility.

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Newman, L. How parenthood experiences influence desire for more children in Australia: A qualitative study. Journal of Population Research 25, 1–27 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03031938

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Keywords

  • low fertility
  • parity progression
  • parenthood
  • qualitative research
  • Australia