Biographical risks and their impact on uncertainty in fertility intentions: a life course perspective based on the German Family Panel

Anne-Kristin Kuhnt, Universit├Ąt Duisburg-Essen
Petra Buhr, Universitat Bremen

Uncertainty is a central part of the fertility process. Individuals can be unsure about having children at all, about the number of desired or expected children, and about the timing of first or subsequent births, respectively. While there has been done a lot of research on the determinants of intentions and desires to have children, only few studies have explicitly dealt with uncertainty of fertility plans. The aim of our paper is to extend the knowledge about the effects of life events and biographical insecurity on uncertainty in fertility intentions. Our expectations are theoretically based on Life Course Theory and the Theory of Planned Behaviour. First, we assume that separation from a partner increases uncertainty since behaviour control is decreased. Second, we expect an increase in uncertainty when individuals become unemployed, because this reduces financial security and thus behaviour control. Third, we hypothesize that the birth of the first child increases uncertainty regarding further births because parenting is a new experience and competes with other domains (work, hobbies) of the life course. According to all hypotheses we assume different effects for women and men. We use data from waves 1-6 of the German Family Panel (pairfam) and apply fixed effects models. Our findings confirm that uncertainty in fertility intentions is of relevant prevalence in our sample and is not stable over the life course. In accordance with our hypotheses uncertainty is connected with changes in partnership, employment status, and parity of children. Furthermore, gender specific differences emerge.

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Presented in Session 84: Fertility preferences 2