Who Delays Childbearing? The Associations Between Time to First Birth, Personality Traits and Education

Abstract

Using data from a large-scale survey, the British Household Panel Survey, this paper assesses the influence of personality traits on the timing of first childbirth and investigates whether, and in what way, personality traits explain the differences in maternity timing across educational groups. We estimate a log-logistic model of the time to first childbirth and show that there is a statistically significant relationship between the Big Five personality traits and the timing of motherhood. The results also show that highly qualified women who are ‘open-minded’ have the lowest hazards of childbirth, lower than similar less educated counterparts.

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Fig. 1
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Notes

  1. 1.

    0.5384, 0.5275, 0.5138, 0.676 and 0.6731 for Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism and Openness, respectively.

  2. 2.

    According to Creighton (2005) the onset of puberty in girls occurs between the ages of 8 and 13.5 years, and Thomas et al. (2001) propose 13.3 years old as the mean age at menarche in Britain.

  3. 3.

    Based on data on age at menopause obtained for 67 and 26 countries, Thomas et al. (2001) calculated the mean age of menopause to be 49.24 years (SD ± 1.73). (obs: their study has no specific data for Britain).

  4. 4.

    The comparison of the Akaike information criterion of the log-normal with the Akaike information criterion of the log-logistic showed that the latter was lower (10128.05 vs. 10272.03), which makes the log-logistic the preferred model. The choice of a parametric model over a nonparametric one was due to the fact that the shape of hazard of having a first child is known. In this case, the use of a parametric model is justified on efficiency grounds.

  5. 5.

    From Jenkins (2005).

  6. 6.

    The scales were standardised for the sample used in the estimations so that the mean is zero and the standard deviation is one.

  7. 7.

    This results from calculating the so-called time ratio, i.e. exp(0.103) = 1.108, which can also be interpreted as the factor by which the expected time-to-failure is multiplied for by every unit increase in the independent variable (Cleves et al. 2008).

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Acknowledgments

This work was supported by the Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia under Grant SFRH/BD/18356/2004 and ERC under Grant StG-201194. My thanks go also to John Ermisch, Emilia Del Bono, Francesco Billari, Arnstein Aassve, Maria Iacovou, Joshua Goldstein, João Bilhim, Luís Baptista, Francesca Zantomio, Priscila Ferreira and Chiara Pronzato.

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Correspondence to Lara Patrício Tavares.

Appendix

Appendix

See Figs. 4 and 5.

Fig. 4
figure4

Distribution of Conscientiousness

Fig. 5
figure5

Distribution of Openness

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Tavares, L.P. Who Delays Childbearing? The Associations Between Time to First Birth, Personality Traits and Education. Eur J Population 32, 575–597 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10680-016-9393-1

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Keywords

  • Reproductive behaviour
  • Fertility determinants
  • Delayed childbearing
  • Personality
  • Big Five
  • Educational status