Academic journal article Population

Second-Union Fertility in France: Partners' Age and Other Factors

Academic journal article Population

Second-Union Fertility in France: Partners' Age and Other Factors

Article excerpt

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Conjugal behaviour has changed radically in France since the 1970s, as it has done in most industrialized countries. The negative attitudes towards family break-up that prevailed until the 1960s (Lefaucheur, 1993) were replaced first by tolerance, then by acceptance of non-traditional family behaviour such as living together, having children outside marriage, divorce, and separation. These new attitudes were favoured by the declining influence of family and religion, and by the more widespread use of contraception. As a result, "unions have become more unstable over the last three decades: divorce is increasing, while cohabitation is both more frequent and more likely to end in separation" (de Guibert-Lantoine, 2002). The popularity of non-marital cohabitation today is reflected in a lower frequency of marriage. Furthermore, if behaviour remains unchanged, 45% of all marriages concluded in 2004 will end in divorce (Prioux, 2007).

Many individuals now experience more than one cohabiting union or marriage, and the relationship between reproductive and conjugal life is also changing. Half of all births today take place outside marriage (Pla, 2008). Some 15% of men and 10% of women born between 1960 and 1969 had their first child in a second or subsequent union, and this percentage is rising (Beaujouan, 2010b). The proportion of births in reconstituted families is also growing (Barre, 2003). More and more couples with children are now separating, and 45-50% of persons below 50 who repartner are already parents (ERFI, INSEEINED, 2005).

Births in second unions have thus become a research topic in their own right, a key tool for assessing fertility levels in the context of increasingly diverse trajectories, and for exploring individual fertility mechanisms and possible differences between men and women. A person who enters a second union has already had an opportunity to start a family, and may or may not have done so. Parental status at repartnering may thus be a sign of individual preferences, but may also influence subsequent fertility behaviour. Then again, given that second unions are formed at later ages than first unions, the difference between male and female partners' physiological ability to conceive at that point may provide a natural explanation for the gender gap in second family formation.

The present article investigates second-union births and the factors that favour them, in order to shed light on the differences between men's and women's fertility. After reviewing the relevant literature and describing the different situations that may prevail at the start of a second union, we analyse the probability of having a child by sex, age at repartnering and existence of children from previous unions. We then model first births in second unions in order to refine our results by correcting them for structural effects. We also assess the characteristics of individuals most likely to have a child in their second union, notably in terms of whether they and/or their partner already have children. Finally, we distinguish between the two main age groups where behaviours differ - i.e. before and after the age at which the propensity to have children starts to fall - to see how this affects our results.

I. Context

Life trajectories today are more often complex, and men can no longer be excluded from demographic research on fertility (Ní Bhrolcháin, 1992), since men and women who form a union do not necessarily share the same conjugal and fertility history. Furthermore, in the process that leads to conception, each partner has a say in the decision whether or not to have children (Greene and Biddlecom, 2000). This study therefore contributes to existing knowledge of fertility by adding a gender-specific dimension.

Despite this new awareness, it is often harder to find family data for men than for women (fathers are not always registered on birth certificates; surveys often focus exclusively on women; women are easier to reach at antenatal clinics, etc. …

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