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European Journal of Population

, Volume 34, Issue 1, pp 33–57 | Cite as

Family Systems and Fertility Intentions: Exploring the Pathways of Influence

  • Bastian Mönkediek
  • Hilde Bras
Article

Abstract

Family systems, as normative frameworks in which family processes unfold, are believed to exert a major influence on fertility. While a number of studies have addressed family system effects on family size and the timing of births, the question of how family systems influence fertility intentions has remained largely unexplored. Because fertility intentions are often not realized, studying the pathways through which these intentions are framed warrants further attention. Addressing this research gap, this paper explores the pathways of influence between family systems and people’s intentions to start or to extend their family in the framework of the theory of planned Behaviour. We use a path analysis to analyse data from the Generations and Gender Survey (GGS) on fertility intentions of 28,988 individuals from nine European countries that considerably vary in family systems. Regional indicators of family systems were constructed on the basis the Survey of Health, Aging and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) and incorporated in the analytical sample. The results demonstrate an important link between family systems and fertility intentions. Family systems frame people’s intentions by influencing their attitudes towards children and their ideas about existing norms regarding fertility. This influence works partly through affecting household size and partly through influencing people’s ideas about the requirements for having children. Family system effects vary between intentions to start and to extend a family. While nearness to kin decreased positive attitudes towards having children of childless respondents, having kin nearby had the opposite effect for those that were already parents.

Keywords

Family systems Fertility Fertility intentions Europe Pathways Theory of planned behaviour 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The study was supported by a VIDI Innovational Research Grant from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) to Prof. Dr. H. Bras, for the research project, entitled ‘The Power of the Family: Family Influences on Long-Term Fertility Decline in Europe, 1850–2010’ (contract Grant Number 452-10-013). This paper uses data from SHARE Wave 5 release 1.0.0, as of 31 March 2015 (doi:  10.6103/SHARE.w5.100) or SHARE Wave 4 release 1.1.1, as of 28 March 2013 (doi:  10.6103/SHARE.w4.111) or SHARE Waves 1 and 2 release 2.6.0, as of 29 November 2013 (doi:  10.6103/SHARE.w1.260 and  10.6103/SHARE.w2.260) or SHARELIFE release 1.0.0, as of 24 November 2010 (doi:  10.6103/SHARE.w3.100). The SHARE data collection has been primarily funded by the European Commission through the 5th Framework Programme (Project QLK6-CT-2001-00360 in the thematic programme Quality of Life), through the 6th Framework Programme (Projects SHARE-I3, RII-CT-2006-062193, COMPARE, CIT5- CT-2005-028857, and SHARELIFE, CIT4-CT-2006-028812) and through the 7th Framework Programme (SHARE-PREP, No. 211909, SHARE-LEAP, No. 227822 and SHARE M4, No. 261982). Additional funding from the U.S. National Institute on Aging (U01 AG09740-13S2, P01 AG005842, P01 AG08291, P30 AG12815, R21 AG025169, Y1-AG-4553-01, IAG BSR06-11 and OGHA 04-064) and the German Ministry of Education and Research as well as from various national sources is gratefully acknowledged (see www.share-project.org for a full list of funding institutions). We thank the two anonymous reviewers for their comments and suggestions. These helped us a lot in improving our paper.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of SociologyBielefeld UniversityBielefeldGermany
  2. 2.Department of Social SciencesWageningen UniversityWageningenThe Netherlands

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