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Intentions to Have a Child: A Couple‐Based Process


Family Relations / Family Relations Interdisciplinary Journal of Applied Family Studies

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Objective To analyze how the endorsement of motives for and against having children act at a dyadic level to predict childbearing intentions. Background Understanding what leads individuals to have children is a topic of interest among family researchers and policy makers given that fertility rates have been decreasing in many countries. Most studies on this topic have not examined intentions about children as a dyadic process, yet most childbearing decisions occur within couple relationships. Method Using a convenience sample of heterosexual dual‐earner couples with (n = 100 couples) and without children (n = 60 couples), Actor‐Partner‐Interdependence‐Models were fitted to assess the linkages between motives and childbearing intentions. Results Different processes occur for parents and nonparents when formulating intentions to have a(nother) child. Compared to nonparents, parents are less concerned about potential changes in lifestyle or to their marital relationship, and worries about child development are subdued; rather, they are more focused on the potential emotional benefits of an additional child. In addition, partner effects were found solely in the parents' group: The more the partner perceived an additional child as enriching, the more the individual intended to have another child. Childless women were also particularly concerned about the costs of parenthood, and childless men were primarily driven by emotional enrichment motives. Conclusion Individual attitudes and behaviors with regard to intentions for having a child tend to be affected by their partner's attitudes and behaviors toward the same. Thus, the family systems approach take here provides a more holistic understanding of couple and family decision‐making processes on this issue than is possible when only collecting data from individuals. Implications For parents, interventions aimed at enhancing communication and negotiation skills between couple members could foster a more shared and informed decision‐making process. Improving women's sense of control and mastery over the juggling of multiple roles may help reduce childless women's concerns about the costs of having children.