The Social Meaning of Children and Fertility Change in Europe (Studies in European Sociology)
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Low fertility in Europe has given rise to the notion of a ‘fertility crisis’. This book shifts the attention from fertility decline to why people do have children, asking what children mean to them. It investigates what role children play in how young adults plan their lives, and why and how young adults make the choices they do.
The book aims to expand our comprehension of the complex structures and cultures that influence reproductive choice, and explores three key aspects of fertility choices:
- the processes towards having (or not having) children, and how they are underpinned by negotiations and ambivalences
- how family policies, labour markets and personal relations interact in young adults’ fertility choices
- social differentiation in fertility choice: how fertility rationales and reasoning may differ among women and men, and across social classes
Based on empirical studies from six nations – France, Scandinavia, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Germany and Italy (representing the high and low end of European variation in fertility rates) – the book shows how different economic, political and cultural contexts interact in young adults' fertility rationales. It will be of interest to students and scholars of sociology, anthropology, demography and gender studies.
example, Economic risk, fertility and the welfare state 37 taking up a mortgage to buy a house or setting a spending frame for consumption. This is similar in the different groups of interviewees. Although the role of breadwinner is put across as shared, men seem to take a larger part of the economic responsibility. While both partners’ contribution to the family income is essential for achieving economic security, several men in our sample talked about their income as the more important one.
and adulthood today. Only by looking at these individual perspectives can one see a bigger picture that shows how these cultural and social categories have shifted. Conclusion and perspectives The development of the transition into the life stage of adulthood is probably a key to understanding current changes in the social processes and life strategies of potential parents. As our study has suggested, there is a normative understanding of age and life stage specific behaviour about the ‘right
13 months of paid parental leave and easily available and subsidized childcare. Women participate in the paid labour market almost to the same extent as men and more than 95 per cent of children between 2–5 years of age are enrolled in public or private childcare. Concurrently, the fertility rate in Sweden is relatively high, currently close to two children per woman (Statistics Sweden 2009a, 2009b). In the last three decades we have witnessed a postponement of parenthood in Sweden, as a part
the selection effect mentioned above: those who see more advantages than disadvantages in becoming a parent are more likely to make the transition, and therefore leave our sample, which consists of those still childless. In our cross-sectional analysis, age is therefore an important control variable. In the joint model, including both men and women, we find that males, compared to females, are significantly more likely to be ambivalent and less likely to be neutral, with no effect on being
Eva, first-time parent, 38 years old with a university degree and a high qualified job, justifies her deferral of having a child with wanting to ‘have time to travel and to hang around in pubs for ten years. I mean there are lots of things to do, at least for me, because these things are fun’ (focus group 8). Eva describes her life prior to having a child to be filled with partying and socializing. She had her university degree and a good job, but the life she wanted to live was not possible to