Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Attitudes about Childlessness and Infertility Treatments: A Comparison of Turkish and American University Students 1

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Attitudes about Childlessness and Infertility Treatments: A Comparison of Turkish and American University Students 1

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Many highly industrialized societies have experienced a demographic shift towards later childbearing, smaller families, and high proportions of adults remaining permanently childless. In the United States, average ages of first-time mothers have risen above the age of 25 since 2006 (Martin et ah, 2013; OECD, 2012), and about 16 percent of women in their early 40s are childless (NCHS, 2013). Parenthood is increasingly regarded as optional, and childlessness has become more accepted and less stigmatized (Thornton and YoungDeMarco, 2001), especially among young adults (Koropeckyj-Cox and Pendell, 2007a; Sobotka and Testa, 2008). Women generally report more positive attitudes about childlessness than men (Gubernskaya, 2010; Koropeckyj-Cox and Pendell, 2007b), but levels of acceptance and the extent of gender difference vary widely across countries (Liefbroer and Merz, 2010; Sobotka and Testa, 2008). Higher educational attainment is also linked to more positive attitudes about childlessness (Gubernskaya, 2010; Koropeckyj-Cox and Pendell, 2007a, 2007b; Merz and Liefbroer, 2012).

At the same time, medical advances have changed the landscape for childbearing in recent decades. Both contraception and infertility treatments2 have allowed for greater control and choice with regard to reproduction. As fertility is delayed to later ages, couples are more likely to encounter age-related fecundity impairments (reduced ability to conceive or carry a pregnancy to live birth) or infertility (defined by physicians as the inability to conceive after 12 months of trying, or 6 months for women after age 35; Baird et al., 2005; Chandra, Copen, and Stephen, 2013; Pal and Santoro, 2003). In 2006-2010, about 27% of married, childless women aged 35-44 were estimated to be infertile in the U.S. (Chandra, Copen, and Stephen, 2013). The trend of delayed childbearing has contributed to an increased demand for infertility treatments (Leridon and Slama, 2008), and has reinforced expectations of control and choice with regard to reproduction (see, for example, May, 1995). In the U. S., births to women aged 35 or older have reached their highest levels since the 1960s (Martin et al., 2013), and infertility treatments likely account for a substantial proportion of these births, particularly among women who are married, more affluent, or have higher levels of education (Chandra and Stephen, 2010). Infertility treatments have also extended childbearing to people in a broader range of social circumstances, including unmarried women (Hertz, 2006) and same-sex couples (Agigian, 2004; Biblarz and Savci, 2010).

In Turkey, new attitudes about gender and family are emerging in a context of economic development and demographic transition. Particularly in the last decade, Turkey has experienced rapid urbanization, industrialization, and westernization, influenced by largescale exposure to European and North American cultures through the mass media (Yavuz, 2006). Turkey's total fertility rate has declined from an average of 6.7 children per woman in the 1950s (Institute of Population Studies, 2003) to 2.15 in 2007 (OECD, 2012). By 2009, more than two-thirds of the population lived in urban areas (about 69%; Central Intelligence Agency, 2009) where fertility rates are generally lower than in rural areas (Toros, 2002), especially among teens and young adults (Institute of Population Studies, 2008). Although first-time mothers are still younger on average than in most European countries (22.3 years in 2010; Central Intelligence Agency, 2014), ages at first birth have been rising among women in younger birth cohorts. In 2008, the median age at first birth among women aged 25-29 was 23.9, nearly three years later than it had been for women then aged 45-49 (Institute of Population Studies, 2008). Close to one-third of women aged 25-29 were childless in 2013 compared to 22% in 1993 (Institute of Population Studies, 1993, 2013). Women with higher levels of education and income became mothers about 2 years later than women with lower incomes and education (Institute of Population Studies, 2013). …

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