What Women Want: Antecedent Conditions for the Initiation of Childbearing

Rosangela Merlo, Australian National University

The transition to motherhood has gained increasing significance in demography, particularly in low-fertility societies. Yet past research on determinants of first-birth timing offers little practical insight to policy-makers faced with the difficult task of arresting, if not reversing, fertility decline. More theoretical explanations of fertility behaviour provide deeper insights but are difficult to test empirically. This paper argues that the main tenets of such theories operate through antecedent conditions (such as marriage, financial security and home ownership) that individuals want in place before initiating childbearing, and that decisions about the transition to motherhood are based on the interplay of such conditions, how strongly these conditions are valued, and the strength of an individuals' desire for children. Quantitative and qualitative analytical approaches are used to examine the antecedent conditions for childbearing initiation, drawing on data from a nationally-representative survey of Australian women aged 25-39 years and focus group data.

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Presented in Session 117: Transition to Motherhood