Couple Disagreement about Short-Term Fertility Desires in Austria: Effects on Intentions and Contraceptive Behaviour

Article excerpt

Abstract

BACKGROUND

Because of the dyadic nature of reproduction, the couple is the most suitable context for studying reproductive decision-making.

OBJECTIVE

I investigate the effects of couple disagreement about short-term childbearing desires on the formulation and implementation of fertility intentions. Do men and women incorporate the perception of a disagreement with the partner about wanting a(nother) child now in their reports on short-term fertility intentions and contraceptive behaviour? Are there relevant differences by type of disagreement, parity, gender and gender equality within the couple?

METHODS

Using individual-level data from the Austrian Generation and Gender Survey conducted in 2008, I regress respondent's short-term fertility intentions (ordinal regression models) and non-use of contraception (logistic regression model) on couple's short-term childbearing desires and a set of background variables.

RESULTS

The findings show that disagreement is shifted toward a pregnancy intention\pregnancy-seeking behaviour at parity zero and toward avoiding pregnancy and maintaining contraceptive use at higher parities. Childless women are less responsive to the perception of their partner's desires than childless men when they express their short-term childbearing intentions. Neither women nor men are likely to stop contraception if they perceive a disagreement with their partner about wanting a(nother) child. Moreover, if the man is actively involved in childcare duties the chance to resolve the couple conflict in favour of childbearing increases.

CONCLUSION

This paper calls for the collection of data from both members of each couple so that the analysis of the partner's actual desires can complement the analysis of the partner's perceived desires.

1. Introduction

In this paper, I address the issue of fertility decision-making among couples using individual-level data. Following the approach proposed by Miller and Pasta (1996), a distinction is made between respondents who perceive a positive disagreement (with the partner having weaker desires than the respondent), and respondents who perceive a negative disagreement (with the partner having stronger desires than the respondent).

The importance of including both partners in the fertility analysis is well recognised (Ryder 1973). Several studies have adopted a couple-oriented approach (Fried and Udry 1979; Coombs and Chang 1981; Morgan 1985; Thomson et al. 1990; Corijn et al. 1996; Thomson 1997; Thomson and Hoem 1998; Jansen and Liefbroer 2006; Miller and Pasta 1996; Miller et al. 2004; Becker 1996), fertility research, however, has been primarily based on the female perspective. This choice has been justified by the high degree of homogamy within the couple, and the fact that women are the main actors and the most reliable reporters of childbearing events.

A major difficulty in the couple-level research lies in the need to have high quality data that collect information on both partners, possibly in repeated waves, which allow researchers to ascertain the differences between partners' reproductive goals, and to identify the contribution of each partner to the final childbearing outcome. If this is true for every country, the lack of adequate data is an even greater problem in European countries, where longitudinal household surveys have only rarely been conducted in recent decades.

Some surveys have tried to get around the difficulties related to the collection of couple data by asking individual respondents questions about their partner's childbearing desires. Empirical findings based on this kind of data have demonstrated that the respondent's reports about the couple's fertility intentions are influenced almost twice as strongly by the individual's own desire to have a child as by the perception of the partner's desire to have a child (Morgan 1985). …