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.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Apart from positive experiences, these can be reduced uncertainty over the future life course and increased marital solidarity (Friedman et al. 1994, p. 394).
Estonia and the Netherlands were excluded, because the country samples did not include all the variables needed for the analysis.
As is evident from Table 2 for France and Hungary, the items charting perceived behavioural control were not included in the questionnaire.
For the full list of items, see the GGS questionnaire: http://www.ggp-i.org/sites/default/files/questionnaires/GGP_QuestW1Full.pdf (access date: 18.08.16).
The exact wording of the question was: “Although you may feel that the decision to have a/another child is yours (and your partner’s/spouse’s) alone, it is likely that others have opinions about what you should do. I’m going to read out some statements about what other people might think about you having a/another child during the next three years. Please tell me to what extent you agree or disagree with these statements, choosing your answer from the card.” (Source: http://www.ggp-i.org/sites/default/files/questionnaires/GGP_QuestW1Full.pdf, access date: 18.08.16).
In Italy, respondents were asked about their opinions about the expectations of their parents concerning respondent’s fertility using separate items, while their opinions about expectations of other relatives were not charted (Alpha for Italy: 0.876).
The exact phrasing introducing the items was: “How much control do you feel you will have over the following areas of your life in the next three years?” (Source: http://www.ggp-i.org/sites/default/files/questionnaires/GGP_QuestW1Full.pdf, access date: 18.08.16).
The exact phrasing of the question introducing the response items was: “How much would the decision on whether to have or not to have a/another child during the next three years depend on the following?” (Source: http://www.ggp-i.org/sites/default/files/questionnaires/GGP_QuestW1Full.pdf, access date: 18.08.16).
The first wave of SHARE was conducted in 2004/2005 in eleven European countries (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland) and Israel. The second, conducted in 2006/2007, and the fourth wave, conducted in 2010/2012, added the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Ireland, Poland, Portugal and Slovenia to the survey. The third wave was not included due to a different set-up.
We only included the anchor persons in SHARE, not their spouses.
In this context, the paper utilized the information on respondents’ co-residential relationships, relationships with their parents (if alive), relationships with their children (if existent) and relationships with up to three persons to whom respondents provided or from whom respondents received any kind of support within the last twelve months.
NUTS levels divide the European Union into areas of relativ comparable population size. Source http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/web/nuts/principles-and-characteristics (access date: 18.01.17).
GDP is measured in Purchasing Power Standard (PPS), per capita. Source: http://appsso.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/nui/show.do?dataset=nama_r_e2gdp&lang=en (19.03.15).
Ajzen, I. (1991). The theory of planned behavior. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 50, 179–211.
Ajzen, I., & Klobas, J. (2013). Fertility intentions: An approach based on the theory of planned behavior. Demographic Research, 29, 203–232.
Baizan, P. (2001). Transition to adulthood in Spain. In M. Corijn & E. Klijzing (Eds.), Transition to adulthood in Europe (pp. 279–312). Dordrecht: Kluwer.
Balbo, N. (2012). Family, friends and fertility. Ph.D. Dissertation. Ridderkerk: Ridderprint.
Balbo, N., Billari, F. C., & Mills, M. (2013). Fertility in advanced societies: A review of research. European Journal of Population, 29, 1–38.
Beaujouan, E. (2013). Counting how many children people want: The influence of questions filters and pre-codes. Demográfia, 56(5), 35–61.
Becker, G. S., & Lewis, H. G. (1974). Interaction between quantity and quality of children. In T. W. Schultz (Ed.), Economics of the family: Marriage, children, and human (pp. 81–90). UMI.
Belsky, J., & Rovine, M. (1984). Social-network contact, family support, and the transition to parenthood. Journal of Marriage and Family, 46(2), 455–462.
Billari, F. C., Castiglioni, M., Castro Martin, T., Michielin, F., & Ongaro, F. (2002). Household and union formation in Mediterranean fashion: Italy and Spain. In E. Klijzing & M. Corijn (Eds.), Dynamics of fertility and partnership in Europe: insights and lessons from comparative research (Vol. 2, pp. 17–41). New York, Geneva: United Nations.
Birg, H. (1992). Differentielle Reproduktion aus der Sicht der biographischen Theorie der Fertilität. In E. Voland (Ed.), Fortpflanzung: Natur und Kultur im Wechselspiel (pp. 189–215). Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.
Blossfeld, H. P., & Huinink, J. (1991). Human capital investments or norms of role transition? How women’s schooling and career affect the process of family formation. American Journal of Sociology, 97(1), 143–168.
Börsch-Supan, A., Brandt, M., Hunkler, C., Kneip, T., Korbmacher, J., Malter, F., et al. (2013). Data resource profile: The survey of health, ageing and retirement in Europe (SHARE). International Journal of Epidemiology. doi:10.1093/ije/dyt088.
Burch, T. K. (1979). Household and family demography: A bibliographic essay. Population Index, 45(2), 173–195.
Burch, T. K., & Gendell, M. (1970). Extended family structure and fertility: Some conceptual and methodological issues. Journal of Marriage and Family, 32(2), 227–236.
Burgess, E. W. (1931). Family tradition and personality. In K. Young (Ed.), Social attitudes (pp. 188–207). New York, NY: Henry Holt.
Cameron, A. C., & Miller, D. L. (2011). Robust inference with clustered data. In A. Ullah & D. E. A. Giles (Eds.), Handbook of empirical economics and finance (pp. 1–28). Boca Raton, FL: Chapman and Hall.
Cameron, A. C., & Miller, D. L. (2015). A practitioner’s guide to cluster-robust inference. Journal of Human Resources, 50(2), 317–372.
Castiglioni, M., Hărăguş, M., Faludi, C., & Hărăguş, P. T. (2016). Is the family system in Romania similar to those of southern European countries? Comparative Population Studies, 40(5), 57–85.
Chen, F. (2006). The impact of family structure on fertility. In D. L. Poston, C. F. Lee, C. F. Chang, S. L. McKibben, & C. S. Walther (Eds.), Fertility, family planning, and population policy in China (pp. 53–64). London: Routledge.
Corijn, M. (2001). Transition to adulthood in France. In M. Corijn & E. Klijzing (Eds.), Transition to adulthood in Europe (pp. 131–151). Dordrecht: Kluwer.
Dalla-Zuanna, G. (2004). The banquet of Aeolus. A familistic interpretation of Italy’s lowest low fertility. In G. Dalla-Zuanna & G. A. Micheli (Eds.), Strong family and low fertility: A paradox? (pp. 105–125). Alphen: Kluwer.
Dalla-Zuanna, G. (2007). Social mobility and fertility. Demographic Research, 17(15), 441–464.
Dalla-Zuanna, G., & Micheli, G. A. (2004). Introduction: New perspectives in interpreting contemporary family and reproductive behaviour of Mediterranean Europe. In G. Dalla-Zuanna & G. A. Micheli (Eds.), Strong family and low fertility: A paradox? (pp. 7–21). Alphen: Kluwer.
Das Gupta, M. (1997). Kinship systems and demographic processes. In D.I. Kertzer & T. Fricke (Eds.), Anthropological demography: Toward a new synthesis (pp. 36–52–184). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Das Gupta, M. (1999). Lifeboat versus corporate ethic: Social and demographic implications of stem and joint families. Social Science and Medicine, 49, 173–184.
Davis, K. (1955). Institutional patterns favoring high fertility in underdeveloped areas. Eugenics Quarterly, 2, 33–39.
De Vos, S., & Palloni, A. (1989). Formal models and methods for the analysis of kinship and household organization. Population Index, 55(2), 174–198.
Dribe, M., & Scalone, F. (2014). Social class and net fertility before, during, and after the demographic transition: A micro-level analysis of Sweden 1880–1970. Demographic Research, 30, 429.
Duranton, G. A., Rodriguez-Pose, A., & Sandall, R. (2009). Family types and the persistence of regional disparities in Europe. Journal of Economic Geography, 85(1), 23–47.
Dykstra, P. A., & Fokkema, T. (2011). Relationships between parents and their adult children: a West European typology of late-life families. Ageing and Society, 31, 545–569.
Dyson, T., & Moore, M. (1983). On kinship structure, female autonomy, and demographic behavior in India. Population and Development Review, 9(1), 35–60.
Esping-Andersen, G. (1999). Social foundations of postindustrial economies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Forsberg, H. (2005). Finland’s families. In B. N. Adams & J. Trost (Eds.), Handbook of world families (pp. 262–282). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Friedman, D., Hechter, M., & Kanazawa, S. (1994). A Theory of the value of children. Demography, 31(3), 375–401.
Garson, G. D. (2008). Path analysis from statnotes: Topics in multivariate analysis. Retrieved 9(05), 2009.
Gauthier, H., & Hatzius, J. (1997). Family benefits and fertility: An econometric analysis. Population Studies, 51(3), 295–306.
Ghodsee, K., & Bernardi, L. (2012). Starting a family at your parents’ house: Multigenerational households and below replacement fertility in urban Bulgaria. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 43(3), 439–459.
Granovetter, M. (2005). The impact of social structure on economic outcomes. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 19(1), 33–50.
Greenwell, L., & Bengtson, V. L. (1997). Geographic distance and contact between middle-aged children and their parents: The effects of social class over 20 years. Journal of Gerontology, 52B(1), S13–S26.
Grundy, E., & Henretta, J. C. (2006). Between elderly parents and adult children: A new look at the intergenerational care provided by the sandwich generation. Ageing and Society, 26(5), 707–722.
Guerrero, T. J., & Naldini, M. (1996). Is the south so different? Italian and Spanish families in comparative perspective. South European Society and Politics, 1(3), 42–66.
Hajnal, J. (1982). Two kinds of preindustrial household formation system. Population and Development Review, 8(3), 449–494.
Hank, K. (2007). Proximity and contacts between older parents and their children: A European comparison. Journal of Marriage and Family, 69, 157–173.
Hareven, T. K. (1994). Aging and generational relations: A historical and life course perspective. Annual Review of Sociology, 20, 437–461.
Harknett, K., Billari, F. C., & Medalia, C. (2014). Do family support environments influence fertility? Evidence from 20 European countries. European Journal of Population. doi:10.1007/s10680-013-9308-3.
Heady, P., Gruber, S., & Ou, Z. (2010). Family, kindred and marriage. In P. Heady & M. Kohli (Eds.), Family, kinship and state in contemporary Europe (Vol. 3, pp. 31–70)., Perspectives on theory and policy Frankfurt: Campus.
Heuveline, P., & Timberlake, J. M. (2004). The role of cohabitation in family formation: The United States in comparative perspective. Journal of Marriage and Family, 66, 1214–1230.
Hilgeman, C., & Butts, C. T. (2009). Women’s employment and fertility: A welfare regime paradox. Social Science Research, 38, 103–117.
Höllinger, F., & Haller, M. (1990). Kinship and social networks in modern societies: A cross-cultural comparison among seven nations. European Sociological Review, 6(2), 103–124.
Huinink, J. (1995). Warum noch Familie? Zur Attraktivität von Partnerschaft und Elternschaft in unserer Gesellschaft. Frankfurt: Campus Verlag.
Kalmijn, M. (2007). Explaining cross-national differences in marriage, cohabitation, and divorce in Europe, 1990–2000. Population Studies, 61(3), 243–263.
Keim, S. (2011). Social networks and family formation processes. Wiesbaden: VS-Verlag.
Klein, T. (2003). Die Geburt von Kindern in paarbezogener Perspektive. Zeitschrift für Soziologie, 32(6), 506–527.
Kohler, H. P., Billari, F. C., & Ortega, J. A. (2002). The emergence of lowest-low fertility in Europe during the 1990s. Population and Development Review, 28(4), 641–680.
Kok, J. (2009). Family systems as frameworks for understanding variation in extra marital births, Europe 1900–2000. Romanian Journal of Population, Studies Supplement/2009, 13–38.
Kuhnt, A.-K., & Trappe, H. (2015). Channels of social influence on the realization of short-term fertility intentions in Germany. Advances in Life Course Research. doi:10.1016/j.alcr.2015.10.002.
Laslett, P. (1983). Family and household as work group and kin group: Areas of traditional Europe compared. In R. Wall, P. Laslett, & J. Robin (Eds.), Family forms in historic Europe (pp. 513–564). Cambridge: University Press.
Liefbroer, A. C. (2009). Changes in family size intentions across young adulthood: A life-course perspective. European Journal of Population, 25, 363–386.
Liefbroer, A. C., Klobas, J. E., Philipov, D., & Ajzen, I. (2015). Reproductive decision-making in a macro- micro perspective: A conceptual framework. In D. Philipov, A. C. Liefbroer, & J. E. Klobas (Eds.), Reproductive decision-making in a macro-micro perspective (pp. 1–16). Dordrecht: Springer.
Livi-Bacci, M. (2001). Too few children and too much family. Daedalus, 130(3), 139–155.
Lois, D., & Becker, O. A. (2014). Is fertility contagious? using panel data to disentangle mechanisms of social network influences on fertility decisions. Advances in Life Course Research, 21, 123–134.
Lorimer, F. (1954). Culture and human fertility. Zürich: Unesco.
Micheli, G. A. (2004). Kinship, family and social network: The anthropological embedment of fertility change in Southern Europe. In G. Dalla-Zuanna & G. A. Micheli (Eds.), Strong family and low fertility: A paradox? (pp. 77–104). Dordrecht: Kluwer.
Mönkediek, B. (2011). Unsicherheit Familiengründung: Eine empirische Analyse zur Bedeutung von finanziellen Ressourcen für den Kinderwunsch und die Timingintention der ersten Elternschaft (2nd ed.). Osnabrück: Verlag Dirk Koentopp.
Mönkediek, B., & Bras, H. (2014). Strong and weak family ties revisited: Reconsidering European family structures from a network perspective. The History of the Family, 19(2), 235–259.
Mönkediek, B., & Bras, H. (2016). Family systems, social networks and family size of European cohorts born between 1920 and 1960. Economic History of Developing Regions, 31(1), 136–166.
Možný, I., & Katrňák, T. (2005). The Czech family. In B. Adams & J. Trost (Eds.), Handbook of world families (pp. 235–261). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Nag, M. (1975). Socio-cultural patterns, family cycle and fertility. In United Nations (Ed.), The population debate: Dimensions and perspectives. Papers of the World Population Conference, Bucharest, 1974 (pp. 289–312). Vol. 2. New York, NY: United Nations.
Naldini, M. (2003). The family in the Mediterranian welfare states. London: Frank Cass.
Newson, L. (2009). Cultural versus reproductive success: Why does economic development bring new tradeoffs? American Journal of Human Biology, 21, 464–471.
Olobatuyi, M. E. (2006). A user’s guide to path analysis. Lanham, MD: University Press of America.
Ongaro, F. (2001). Transition to adulthood in Italy. In M. Corijn & E. Klijzing (Eds.), Transition to adulthood in Europe (pp. 173–207). Dordrecht: Kluwer.
Oppenheim Mason, K. (2001). Gender and family systems in the fertility transition. Population and Development Review, 27, 160–176.
Régnier-Loilier, A., & Vignoli, D. (2011). Fertility intentions and obstacles to their realization in France and Italy. Population (English Edition), 66(2), 361–389.
Reher, D. S. (1998). Family ties in western Europe: persistent contrasts. Population and Development Review, 24(2), 203–234.
Romero, A. J., & Ruiz, M. (2007). Does familism lead to increased parental monitoring? protective factors for coping with risky behaviors. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 16(2), 143–154.
Rossi, A. S., & Rossi, P. H. (1990). Of human bonding: Parent–child relations across the life course. New York, NY: de Gruyter.
Rotering, P., & Bras, H. (2015). With the help of kin? household composition and reproduction in The Netherlands, 1842–1920. Human Nature, 26(1), 102–121.
Schoen, R., Astone, N. M., Kim, Y. J., Nathanson, C. A., & Fields, J. M. (1999). Do fertility intentions affect fertility behavior? Journal of Marriage and Family, 61(3), 790–799.
Simon, H. A. (1955). A behavioral model of rational choice. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 69(1), 99–118.
Skinner, G. W. (1997). Family systems and demographic processes. In D. I. Kertzer & T. E. Fricke (Eds.), Anthropological demography. Toward a new synthesis (pp. 53–95). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Skirbekk, V. (2008). Fertility trends by social status. Demographic Research, 18(5), 145–180.
Spéder, Z., & Kapitány, B. (2009). How are time-dependent childbearing intentions realized? realization, postponement, abandonment, bringing forward. European Journal of Population, 25, 503–523.
Spéder, Z., & Kapitány, B. (2015). Influences on the link between fertility intentions and behavioural outcomes. In D. Philipov, A. C. Liefbroer, & J. E. Klobas (Eds.), Reproductive decision-making in a macro-micro perspective (pp. 79–112). Dordrecht: Springer.
Steelman, L. C., Powell, B., Werum, R., & Carter, S. (2002). Reconsidering the effects of sibling configuration: Recent advances and challenges. Annual Review of Sociology, 28, 243–269.
Therborn, G. (2004). Between sex and power. Family in the world, 1900–2000. London: Routledge.
Todd, E. (1990). L’invention de l’Europe [the invention of Europe]. Paris: Seuil.
Turke, P. W. (1989). Evolution and the demand for children. Population and Development Review, 15(1), 61–90.
United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. (2005). Generations & gender programme: Survey instruments. New York and Geneva: United Nations.
Veleti, K. (2001). Family structure and its effective influence on fertility. Journal of Human Ecology, 12(5), 387–390.
Viazzo, P. P., & Zanotelli, F. (2010). Welfare as moral obligation: Changing patterns of family support in Italy and the Mediterranean. In H. Grandits (Ed.), Family, kinship and state in contemporary Europe (Vol. 1, pp. 47–92)., The Century of Welfare: Eight Countries Frankfurt: Campus.
Vignoli, D., Rinesi, F., & Mussino, E. (2013). A home to plan the first child? fertility intentions and housing conditions in Italy. Population, Space and Place, 19, 60–71.
Vikat, A., Spéder, Z., Beets, G., Billari, F. C., Bühler, C., Désesquelles, A., et al. (2007). Generations and Gender Survey (GGS): Towards a better understanding of relationships and processes in the life course. Demographic Research, 17(14), 389–440.
Voland, E. (1998). Evolutionary ecology of human reproduction. Annual Review of Anthropology, 27, 347–374.
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.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
This paper uses data from the Generations and Gender Program (GGP). For more information on the Generations and Gender Survey (GGS), see http://www.ggp-i.org/.
About this article
Cite this article
Mönkediek, B., Bras, H. Family Systems and Fertility Intentions: Exploring the Pathways of Influence. Eur J Population 34, 33–57 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10680-017-9418-4
- Family systems
- Fertility intentions
- Theory of planned behaviour