Australian men's intentions for children: A life course perspective on factors influencing their formation and revision.




Keygan, Amina Houda

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Declining fertility throughout much of the modern world has led demographers to question whether individual and couple childbearing behaviour is accurately reflective of the numbers of children people intend to have. Most research into this field has been undertaken in a European context where the emergence of sub-replacement level fertility intentions has occurred. In Australia, studies into childbearing intentions, desires and preferences are gathering momentum as researchers seek to better understand the causes of the country’s fertility trends. Although these sorts of studies are becoming increasingly common, the clear majority of them investigate the childbearing intentions, preferences of desires of Australian women, to the exclusion of men. A main premise of this research is that to understand the ways in which couples negotiate childbearing, researchers must first understand the ways in which individuals form and revise their intentions for childbearing. This study takes as its focus the fertility intentions of Australian men. It investigates the socio-economic, demographic and attitudinal factors associated with their child-number intentions. Using data from twelve waves (2001-2012) of the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey (HILDA), this research incorporates psychological theories of goal adjustment to examine the life course events most strongly associated with the revision of men’s intentions for children over time. This research finds that most men intend two children, confirming the two-child norm in Australia. The findings also demonstrate that partnered men, younger men, those with high levels of educational attainment and men with high life satisfaction intended, on average, more children. As expected, when men experienced relationship dissolution, periods of unemployment, or the birth of a child, they revised down their intentions for (more) children. Surprisingly, the process of ageing was found to be significantly associated with increasing intentions for children, until the age of 40-44 years, signalling the possible presence of a social age deadline for Australian fathers. The academic and theoretical contribution this research makes is significant. This study is the first to apply behavioural theories to understand the way in which Australian men revise their intentions for children over time. Importantly, it provides a framework from which future studies of the dyadic nature of childbearing decision making can be better understood.



fertility intentions, fertility, family size, family size intentions, Australian men, Theory of Planned Behaviour, Theory of Planned Behavior, life course perspective, Theory of Cognitive Dissonance, Traits-Desires-Intentions-Behaviours Model (TDIB), Traits-Desires-Intentions-Behaviors Model (TDIB), HILDA survey




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