"After the first Child": Partners Construction of Marital Fertility Biographies

"After the first Child": Partners Construction of Marital Fertility Biographies

The low fertility of the Portuguese society has an important feature, which is the one child offspring. It's a reality that is crucial to understand, due to the new challenges that families, policies and societies are facing. But also because of the perplexity it causes when we take into account other fertility trends, such as the widespread ideal norm of the two children, and the steady growth of a modern contraceptive behaviour, which allows for the adjusting of fertility expectations and outcomes, at least in theory. This is the paradox that we want to investigate, by looking into the couples' negotiation and production of their fertility biography. We intend to identify the variables of individual and marital biographies that underlie the (in) decisions for having or not having another child in couples with an only child. But we also want to evaluate the influence of the social settings where these biographies are produced, as they engender specific sets of values and constraints in the fertility sphere.

Estatuto: 
Participant entity
Financed: 
No
Keywords: 

marital Biography, Only Child, Fertility, Family

The low fertility of the Portuguese society has an important feature, which is the one child offspring. It's a reality that is crucial to understand, due to the new challenges that families, policies and societies are facing. But also because of the perplexity it causes when we take into account other fertility trends, such as the widespread ideal norm of the two children, and the steady growth of a modern contraceptive behaviour, which allows for the adjusting of fertility expectations and outcomes, at least in theory. This is the paradox that we want to investigate, by looking into the couples' negotiation and production of their fertility biography. We intend to identify the variables of individual and marital biographies that underlie the (in) decisions for having or not having another child in couples with an only child. But we also want to evaluate the influence of the social settings where these biographies are produced, as they engender specific sets of values and constraints in the fertility sphere.

Objectivos: 
The founding aim of the research that we want to undertake is to understand the circumstances that underlie the increase of the one child offspring in Portuguese society. At a time of great transformations in the European demographic landscape (low fertility, aging), which provides new challenges to politicians and societies, we think that it is imperative to understand this reality. We intend to carry out a brief picture of Portuguese families with one child from a statistical point of view, in order to understand it within European trends, especially in the context of South Europe. The latest but intense decrease of fertility in these countries has led to the comparison of realities that probably still point up important differences. After this first step, we intend to investigate the processes and the reasons that lead to the decision of having an only child, by interviewing in depth couples  at a crucial moment of their fertility biography, when they have to make a decision on a second child. We want to clarify the negotiation process and the influence of individual, marital and social variables in the decision making.
State of the art: 
  The decline of the European fertility from the middle sixties onwards is part of a long trend of intentional restriction of births (Bardet and Dupâquier, 1986; Bandeira, 1996) known as "first contraceptive revolution" (Leridon, 1987). However, it was only with the development of modern contraception, such as the hormonal pill, that it became possible for couples to control their fertility more efficiently. This "second contraceptive revolution" changed their relation in regard to reproduction, which became a field of sequential decisions: having children or not, how many and when. In spite of this freedom of choice, European studies have stated the consistency of fertility representations and behaviours: there are few couples voluntarily childless (Toulemont, 1995; McAllister and Clarke, 1998); and the ideal norm of two children is very widespread, with the declining weight of the third child (Segalen, 1999).Portugal follows these trends, although the delay of its demographic transition (Bandeira, 1996). In fact, in the sixties, its fertility was one of the highest in Europe. Portugal was then a country where the Church had a great influence, and with an important rural social fabric. On the other hand, family planning only became a constitutional right with the democratic revolution, which also postponed modern contraceptive behaviours (Almeida, 2004). But this delay was compensated by the intensity of changes, in such a way that Portugal ends up in line with Europe in the nineties, oscillating between 1,4 and 1,5 children per women since then (Carrilho and Patrício, 2004). Portuguese studies also reveal the consistency of the ideal of two children (Almeida and Guerreiro, 1993; INE, 2001) with the ongoing decline of the ideal of three children since the seventies. Another important feature is the gap between the two children ideal and the increase of the one child offspring, which is a result of the difficulties that families have in satisfying the (growing) conditions they feel to be necessary to provide for a child (Cunha, 2006). This is a clear sign of the centrality of children to family and the importance given to their educational promotion (Almeida and Wall, 2001; Almeida, 2003). Parents give plenty of reasons for not accomplishing their fertility ideals - which often leads to the one child offspring (idem) - resulting from the difficulty in reconciling family life and labour market obligations (Guerreiro, 1998), but also the increasing postponement of the transition to parenthood in the fertility agenda (Cunha, 2006). The most recent researches on Portuguese fertility have focused separately on women and men's representations and outcomes (Wall, 2003/2005; Cunha, 2006; Almeida, 2004), but there's a lack of studies on couples as a unit of analysis, as already happens in other fields of family research (Torres, 2002). Even in the classical study of Kellerhals et al. (1982), where couples were interviewed on their reproductive expectations and behaviours, the issue of the marital negotiation of fertility was submerged under the impact of social settings. Therefore, they concluded that the professional and educational attainment of women (but not of men) were the most important predictors of couples' fertility.
Coordenador 
Start Date: 
01/12/2006
End Date: 
01/12/2009
Duração: 
36 meses
Closed