The social context of fertility intentions: a comparative study in France and Germany

Laura Bernardi, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research and Université de Lausanne
Clementine Rossier, Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED)

The paper focuses on the role of social context in shaping fertility intentions. In particular it extends the theory planned behavior framework by exploring the role played by interpersonal relations in the creating and modifying attitudes, norms, and perceived opportunities related to the choice of having or not a child. Social interaction with a finite set of people is the place where mechanisms of social learning, social influence, and social support occur. On the one hand the content and the intensity of social mechanisms are modulated by the characteristics of social interaction, like the size of the network, the variety of its composition, the density of its relationships, the structure of power inside it, and the intensity of dyadic ties of each of its members. On the other hand social networks are fluid and their configuration change in response to fertility intentions and behavior. In order to disentangle the complex relationship between social networks and childbearing intentions, we analyze an original set of data from Germany and France. The data contains semi-structured interviews and standardized social network data of a sample of childless individuals as well as parents of one child. Respondents are invited to define their current social networks by completing a network map and grid and to comment on their relationships with each network member. The data are conceived to be analyzed qualitatively and quantitative techniques. First, we produce a rich description of the process and the mechanisms of social influence by applying systematic content analysis to the data produced by the chart and by the biographic narrative questions. Second, we asses whether social influence mechanisms vary in differently configured networks and in different cultural contexts.

Presented in Session 31: Fertility Intentions and their Realisation