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Delaying Parenthood in East and West Germany: A Mixed-Methods Study of the Onset of Childbirth and the Vocabulary of Motives of Women of the Birth Cohort of 1971

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The Demography of Europe

Abstract

In this chapter we analyze the delay in first births among East and West German women born in 1971 on the basis of both qualitative and quantitative data. The data come from the German Life History Study (GLHS), in particular from two nationally representative quantitative surveys conducted in 1996–1998 and 2005, and narrative interviews conducted from 2004 to 2006. Median ages at first marriage and first birth have been increasing in West Germany for more than three decades, and in East Germany since 1991. The 1971 birth cohort is of particular interest because it is the first cohort for whom the family formation process took place within a reunified Germany. When we look at the onset of childbirth, we find that the West German part of the cohort represents a continuation of the delaying trend, while the East German part of the cohort has seen a dramatic increase in the previously low age at first birth. Our qualitative material documents widely differing parenthood motives and behavioral patterns between East and West German women. According to West German women, West German men avoid or delay making family commitments, thus complicating the maternal aspirations of West German women, who, in addition, face problematic incompatibilities of career and family. In contrast, for both East German women and men, parenthood appears to be a taken for granted even under difficult economic circumstances.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    An earlier version of a theory connecting biographical turbulence to a decline in fertility was put forth by Birg, Flöthmann and Rester (1991).

  2. 2.

    The data of the German Life History Study (GLHS) is being distributed through the Zentralarchiv für Empirische Sozialforschung (GESIS) in Cologne. Basic information and all methods of documentation can be downloaded from www.yale.edu/ciqle, as well as from the web page of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin.

  3. 3.

    This interplay of cohort size, labor market conditions, and policy measures was the central focus of our monograph on the latter two cohorts (Hillmert and Mayer 2004).

  4. 4.

    All the data of these surveys were collected in cooperation with the survey firm “Infas” (Bad Godesberg).

  5. 5.

    The panel data for the East Germans again includes cases which had moved to West Germany.

  6. 6.

    Scheel (2007: 58) computed the East German cumulative cohort fertility up to age 34 from the panel data of the German Life History Study (1.18) and the data from official statistics (1.20). The small parameter difference might be accounted for by the West migrants in our East German sample.

  7. 7.

    In our book (Mayer and Schulze 2009) we have documented all cases in detail. This allows us to compare the cases selected here for interpretation with the other half of the women.

  8. 8.

    Slashes denote that the respective parameters could not be observed at the time of the interview. These restrictions apply especially to the cohorts born around 1950 and 1960, who were observed up to age 27/28; and the cohorts born around 1955, who were observed up to about age 34/35 (for the survey designs, see also Mayer 2008).

  9. 9.

    Cohabitation is defined here as sharing a household together for at least one month.

  10. 10.

    Response to attitude item in the quantitative study.

  11. 11.

    Very high agreement with item on attitude scale.

  12. 12.

    Medium agreement with item on attitude scale.

  13. 13.

    The emphasis on male partner reluctance in regard to the delay of family formation of course raises the issue of how reliable women’s information about the motives of their partners is. On the one hand, they are corroborated by the cohabitation histories, while on the other hand, we find independent corroboration in the case studies of men (Mayer and Schulze 2009, Chap. 4).

  14. 14.

    Strong agreement with an attitude scale item.

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Acknowledgments

The collection of the data used in this study was funded by the Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science through the Max Planck Institute for Human Development (Center for Sociology and the Study of the Life Course), Berlin, the Deutsche For-schungsgemeinschaft and the European Social Fund. Data analysis was supported by Yale University through the Center for Research on Inequalities and the Life Course (CIQLE). We are especially indebted to Britta Matthes for her inputs in the data collections of the 1997 study of the East German 1971 cohort and the 2005 panel study, as well as to Karola Rockmann and Ralf Künster for their help in computer-assisted data collection and data organization. We would also like to thank Jörg Luedicke (CIQLE) for his assistance in computing the Kaplan–Meier estimates and Cox models, as well as other data analysis, Chelsea Rhodes (CIQLE) and Lucas Wiesendang (CIQLE) for editing the manuscript, Miriam Hils-Cosgrove for further language editing, Natalie Nitsche (CIQLE) and Jana Schmidt (BIS) for constructing the case histories from the survey data, and Anja Wilbrandt (BIS) for editing parts of the narrative interviews. The Mannheim Center for European Social Research at the University of Mannheim provided generous support during a sabbatical stay of the first author, and in providing one-week workplace for the second author. Critical comments by the editors and Johannes Huinink greatly helped us in revising the chapter.

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Appendix

Appendix

See Tables A.1, A.2.

Table A.1 Transitions into parenthood—Cox proportional hazard models for the birth of the first child—West Germany, women
Table A.2 Transitions into parenthood—Cox proportional hazard models for the birth of the first child—East Germany, women

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Mayer, K.U., Schulze, E. (2013). Delaying Parenthood in East and West Germany: A Mixed-Methods Study of the Onset of Childbirth and the Vocabulary of Motives of Women of the Birth Cohort of 1971. In: Neyer, G., Andersson, G., Kulu, H., Bernardi, L., Bühler, C. (eds) The Demography of Europe. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-90-481-8978-6_4

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