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Prospective Parents' Knowledge About Parenting and Their Anticipated Child‐Rearing Decisions


Family Relations / Family Relations Interdisciplinary Journal of Applied Family Studies

Published online on


Objective To examine whether the theory of planned behavior can be used to understand intentions for child‐rearing practices. Background Parenting intentions are formed before becoming a parent, but it is less clear what nonparents' intentions are and how subjective norms, attitudes, and perceived control predict their intentions. Method Nonparent emerging adults (N = 353, Mage = 19.6 years, 72% female) were asked about their intentions to (a) breast‐feed or support a partner in breastfeeding, (b) circumcise a male infant, (c) co‐sleep, and (4) put their infant in nonparental daytime care. They were also asked what proportion of American parents they thought engaged in each and why they would or would not engage in each practice. Results Most intended to breast‐feed and to circumcise their male infants, but not to co‐sleep or to put their infant in nonparental daytime care. Participants' inaccurate knowledge about actual parents' behavior (i.e., subjective norms) and the factors that they thought might affect their own future behavior (i.e., attitudes toward and perceived control) were associated with their intentions for the child‐rearing practices. Conclusion This study replicated prior research on breast‐feeding intentions and extended the viability of the theory of planned behavior to understand prospective parents' intentions for other child‐rearing practices. Implications Practitioners should consider discussing the norms surrounding child‐rearing behaviors during health‐ and development‐focused courses in secondary or postsecondary school and with expecting couples.