Couples’ Decision-Making on Having a First Child: Comparing Pathways to Early and Late Parenthood

Arieke J. Rijken, Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute
Trudie Knijn, Utrecht University

Starting from theories on reflexive individualization in modern societies, with a focus on deliberate life choices, long-term planning and negotiating partnerships, we investigate the nature of couples' decision-making processes on having a first child. We use semi-structured interviews with 33 couples, selected from the Netherlands Kinship Panel Study and compared couples who entered parenthood at a relatively young age with those who did at a relatively old age. We expected more explicit decision-making among postponers and differences in motives and arguments between the two groups. Our qualitative analyses show that the decision-making preceding first childbirth is often implicit, even among postponers. Disagreement between partners does not necessarily lead to discussion. Factors that are known to result in postponement of childbearing, like higher education, do not always play a conscious role in people’s decision-making.

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Presented in Session 22: Fertility Timing and Transitions