Academic journal article International Journal of Men's Health

Men's Fertility-Related Knowledge and Attitudes, and Childbearing Desires, Expectations and Outcomes: Findings from the Understanding Fertility Management in Contemporary Australia Survey

Academic journal article International Journal of Men's Health

Men's Fertility-Related Knowledge and Attitudes, and Childbearing Desires, Expectations and Outcomes: Findings from the Understanding Fertility Management in Contemporary Australia Survey

Article excerpt

Most people want and expect to become parents (Holton, Fisher, & Rowe, 2011; Weston, Qu, Parker, & Alexander, 2004). Contrary to the common stereotype that achieving parenthood is more important for women, men appear to desire parenthood as much as women do (Fisher, Baker, & Hammarberg, 2010). Existing research and public discourse relating to childbearing in Australia and other high-income countries almost exclusively focus on women. Evidence about men's reproductive aspirations, expectations, and experiences is much more limited.

The few existing studies among childless men who are presumed to be fertile suggest that they want and expect to become fathers and view fatherhood as fundamental to lifetime contentment and fulfilment (Dyer, Lombard, & Van der Spuy, 2009; Sylvest, Christensen, Hammarberg, & Schmidt, 2014; Thompson & Lee, 2011; Thompson, Lee, & Adams, 2013). The limited available evidence about men's experiences of involuntary childlessness indicates that this causes feelings of loss, depression, exclusion, isolation, and risk-taking behaviour (Hadley & Hanley, 2011). Further, reproductive service provision has historically excluded men, and has not been designed in such a way that men's needs are addressed or supported (Hinton & Miller, 2013).

In high-income countries people increasingly postpone childbearing to the fourth and fifth decades of life. As a result, an increasing proportion of people remain childless or have fewer children than they had planned to have by the end of their reproductive life (Holton et al., 2011; te Velde, Habbema, Leridon, & Eijkemans, 2012; Weston et al., 2004). There are many reasons why the age of childbearing is increasing (Mills, Rindfuss, McDonald, & te Velde, 2011). A contributing factor may be that men and women have limited knowledge about the relationship between age and fertility and overestimate the ability of assisted reproductive technologies (ART) such as in-vitro fertilization (IVF) to overcome age-related infertility (Bunting, Tsibulsky, & Boivin, 2013; Daniluk & Koert, 2013; Hammarberg et al., 2013; Lampic, Skoog Svanberg, Karlstrom, & Tyden, 2006; Peterson, Pirritano, Tucker, & Lampic, 2012; Weston & Qu, 2005).

The trend in high-income countries to postpone childbearing is commonly attributed to women's wish to achieve other life goals, such as a career, before having children (Maher & Dever, 2004). However, there is evidence that not having a partner or having a partner who is unwilling to commit to parenthood are two of the main reasons for delayed childbearing and involuntary childlessness among women (Holton et al., 2011). Childbearing and parenting are shared endeavours; we need better understanding of men's contribution to childbearing decisions and outcomes and the factors that influence their contributions.

A range of theoretical explanations has been suggested in order to understand fertility decision-making and fertility behaviour in populations such as Australia which have low fertility rates. Explanations include the prominent 'rational choice' theories, which take a cost-benefit approach (McDonald, 2000, 2002), and other theoretical perspectives that place more emphasis on social and psychological variables (Hakim, 2003; Miller & Pasta, 1995). These models often assume that childbearing is a voluntary or rational process. However, childbearing is not always a matter of individual choice and is often determined by situation and circumstance (Holton et al., 2011; Maher & Dever, 2004; Weston et al., 2004). Accordingly, in this article we have utilised a multifactorial conceptual framework which includes biological, psychological, and social factors (Holton et al., 2011) to assist in understanding men's childbearing behaviour.

The aim of this study was to investigate fertility-related knowledge and attitudes and the factors that influence childbearing desires, expectations, and outcomes among Australian men of reproductive age. …

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