Brave Enough for Parenthood? – on the Influence of Parenting Ideals on Fertility

Kerstin Ruckdeschel, Federal Institute for Population Research

Over recent decades the practice of parenthood has become an increasingly demanding task, sometimes referred to as intensive parenting (Hays 1996). Parents are expected to foster their children’s physical, emotional and social development by investing time and money and are held responsible for the mental and physical wellbeing and success of their children. The aim of our paper is to investigate if these high individual and social demands towards parents have a negative influence on fertility decisions. If the demands seem too high to cope with, the decision to have a first child may be delayed or even denied. When considering a further child parents may fear not to fulfill all expectations with a second or third child again. On the other hand the experience of already being a parent could lessen the negative influence of too idealistic demands.

We investigate these research questions for Germany using data of the Family-Leitbild-Panelsurvey 2012 and 2016 which includes questions on norms of parenting. The panel structure of the data allows for fixed-effects-models. First results show that there are several norm complexes in regard to parenting. We find the complex of priority of children’s needs, responsibility for well-informed education and responsibility for financial security. We further find a responsibility for active parenting and a complex which is best described as overstress by parenting demands. We find a negative influence of too high expectations concerning well-informed education and children’s needs priority especially on first births while this influence lessens with each child already born. The impact of responsibility for financial security on the other hand stays.

Presented in Session 103: Fertility in Times of Economic Uncertainty