Academic journal article Demographic Research

Are Daughters' Childbearing Intentions Related to Their Mothers' Socio-Economic Status?

Academic journal article Demographic Research

Are Daughters' Childbearing Intentions Related to Their Mothers' Socio-Economic Status?

Article excerpt

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)


Fertility intentions are the most proximate determinants of actual fertility (e.g., Barber 2001; Bongaarts 1992) and inform us about directional trends (Hin et al. 2011; Testa 2014). They are transmitted across generations from parents to children (Fernandez and Fogli 2006). However, the literature on intergenerational transmission of fertility has viewed the effect of the family of origin mainly in terms of sib-ship size; that is, women with more siblings are likely to have more children (e.g., Murphy and Knudsen 2002).

In this paper we argue that young female adults may refer to their mothers' experience as a model - either to aim for or to be avoided - when forming their own fertility intentions. More specifically, we test whether there are positive intergenerational effects of education on intended childbearing: The more children highly educated women have, the more children highly educated women in the daughter's (subsequent) generation will plan to have because they have witnessed how combining family and occupational career is a realistic life target for many women/mothers with high education. While such a link has already been investigated at the macro level (Testa 2014), there are no studies examining the micro-level relationship between mother's socio-economic status and daughter's fertility intentions. Our main research hypothesis is that daughters of highly educated mothers who worked during their daughters' teenage years are more able to reconcile a family life with children and an occupational career. Using crosssectional data from the Generation and Gender Surveys (GGS) in a cross-country comparative approach, we examine the determinants of fertility intentions in Austria, Bulgaria, Italy, and Norway, four countries exhibiting quite different fertility levels, female labour market participation rates, welfare state models, and gender role systems. The importance of taking a comparative approach in studying intergenerational transmission of fertility has been widely acknowledged in the literature (Billari, Philipov, and Testa 2009; Liefbroer and Billari 2010; Keim, Klärner, and Bernardi 2009), yet existing research does not always account for cross-cultural and cross-national variation. The novelty of this analysis lies in a new dimension of intergenerational transmission, i.e., the work-fertility joint behaviour of mothers with adolescent daughters, which is considered in combination with the mother/daughter transmission of education, and in a cross-country comparative approach accounting for different cultural and institutional settings. Continuity between parents and children in fertility-related outcomes has consequences in terms of both population size and structure. Hence, more knowledge about the intergenerational transmission of fertility is particularly valuable.

The paper is structured as follows. after a review of the relevant literature on fertility intentions and intergenerational transmission of fertility-related behaviour, the similarities and differences of four European countries are examined in terms of both institutional context and labour market. Next, data and methodology are presented and, finally, results are described and critically discussed in the concluding section.


This study lies at the intersection of those asserting a strong link between intentions and behaviours, as in the theory of 'planned behaviour' (Ajzen 1991), and those arguing that parental behaviour and the parent-child relationship during childhood and adolescence significantly influence both the intentions and the behaviours of children in adulthood, as in the 'linked lives' theoretical framework (Elder 1977; 1994).

The concept of 'intention' refers to a commitment to act, which incorporates possible obstacles and contingent circumstances. As such, intentions reflect plans under given constraints and circumstances (Miller and Pasta 1995; Thomson 1997) and are the immediate antecedent of the corresponding behaviour (Ajzen 1991; 2005; Ajzen and Fishbein 1980; Fishbein and Ajzen 2010). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.