Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 47, Issue 5, pp 1507–1516 | Cite as

Public Perception of Female Fertility: Initial Fertility, Peak Fertility, and Age-Related Infertility Among U.S. Adults

  • Robin E. JensenEmail author
  • Nicole Martins
  • Melissa M. Parks
Original Paper


Perceptions of fertility are thought to impact reproductive behaviors, yet little is known about how lay people conceptualize the female fertility timeline. In this research, public perception of the female fertility timeline was assessed via a national survey of U.S. adults (N = 990) ranging in age from 18 to 89 years. Although there is no scientific consensus on the makeup of the female fertility timeline, results from this research indicate that the U.S. public posits fertility onset at (approximately) 13 years, peak fertility at 22, ideal first pregnancy age at 23, too late for pregnancy at 46, and infertility at 49. Regression analysis revealed that perceived peak fertility and ideal pregnancy age were positively correlated such that participants perceived the ideal pregnancy age as directly following peak fertility. Education was significantly related to fertility perceptions; those with more education perceived initial fertility to be lower and peak fertility and ideal pregnancy age to be higher. In other words, more highly educated individuals perceived fertility to manifest over a longer period of time as compared to individuals with less education. Black and Hispanic participants and participants with lower income perceived ideal first pregnancy age as significantly lower than did White participants and participants with higher income. These differences may suggest that the seeds of health disparities associated with phenomena such as adolescent pregnancy are lurking in fertility timeline perceptions.


Illness representation Pregnancy Reproductive health Science perceptions Self-regulation theory 

Supplementary material

10508_2018_1197_MOESM1_ESM.doc (83 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 83 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robin E. Jensen
    • 1
    Email author
  • Nicole Martins
    • 2
  • Melissa M. Parks
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of CommunicationUniversity of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA
  2. 2.The Media SchoolIndiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA

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