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  • Project contributors: Ní-Bhrolcháin M, Beaujouan E,

    This Project is part of the following research programme/s:

    Fertility and Family


    The aim of this study was to examine several aspects of uncertain fertility intentions, firstly by looking at the prevalence of uncertainty and how it varies with the definition used, and with question format. The factors associated with uncertainty at the individual level were also examined.

    The study used a time series of repeated rounds of the General Household Survey (GHS) to study uncertainty in fertility intentions. Fertility intentions questions were asked in the GHS of all women aged 18-44 and ever-married women aged 16-17 from 1979-1985, and of all women aged 16-49 from 1986 to the present. Two measures of intentions were used in this study: whether a (further) birth is expected and, among those expecting a (further) birth, the expected age at next birth. The study examined the prevalence of uncertainty estimated from the General Household Survey 1979-2005/7, and how it varies with alternative definitions.

    The study has shown that a substantial minority of women are uncertain in their expectations about future childbearing, with four in five women under 25 being unsure about their fertility intentions, and three in five women under 35.At the individual level, uncertainty varies largely with demographic status and life stage-age, partnership status, parity and time since previous birth.

    Evidence from qualitative and quantitative studies, particularly in relation to pregnancy intentions, reinforces the reality of uncertainty about reproductive prospects. However, the findings of this study also suggest that the measurement of fertility intentions needs improvement.

    Current ideas in demography about individuals' reproductive choices assume the existence of clear preferences and intentions, and that decisions are taken either according to a full-blown rational choice model or in a means-end framework of some kind. The existence of substantial uncertainty is inconsistent with such accounts. Thus, the research team have since been working towards a new theoretical approach to fertility preferences and intentions, suggesting that preferences and intentions are not well-articulated at younger ages, but are constructed in interaction with experience and the developing life-course.

    Publications & Activities

    How real are reproductive goals? Uncertainty and the construction of fertility preferences
    European Population Conference (2012). (Stockholm)
    Authors: Ní-Bhrolcháin M, Beaujouan E,

    Research on fertility and partnership using the General Household Survey
    General Lifestyle Survey/General Household Survey User Meeting (2012). (Royal Statistical Society, London)
    Authors: Ní-Bhrolcháin M, Beaujouan E,

    Family Planning: starting a family is not a precisely planned event
    Authors: Ní-Bhrolcháin M, Beaujouan E,

    Invited presentation: How real are reproductive goals? Uncertainty in fertility intentions
    Population, Health and Regional Directorate Seminar Series (2011). (ONS Titchfield)
    Authors: Ní-Bhrolcháin M, Beaujouan E,

    Trends in fertility and partnership in Britain, 1970-2007
    British Society for Population Studies Conference 2011 (2011). (York)
    Authors: Beaujouan E, Ní-Bhrolcháin M,

    Uncertainty in fertility intentions in Britain 1979-2007
    Vienna Yearbook of Population Research (2011). 9 101-134
    Authors: Ní-Bhrolcháin M, Beaujouan E,

    Uncertainty in fertility intentions in Britain 1991-2007: how real are reproductive goals?
    From Intentions to Behaviour: Reproductive Decision-Making in a Macro-Micro Perspective Conference (2010). (Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna)
    Authors: Ní-Bhrolcháin M, Beaujouan E,

    Children at Home, Staying Alone? Paths towards Repartnering for Men and Women
    PAA Annual Conference 2010 (2010). (Dallas, Texas)
    Authors: Beaujouan E,

    [Poster] Partners characteristics and childbearing after a separation, contrast between men and woma
    European Population Conference 2010 (2010). (University of Vienna)
    Authors: Beaujouan E,

    Stability and change in fertility intentions in Britain, 1991-2007
    Population Trends (2010). 141
    Authors: Ní-Bhrolcháin M, Beaujouan E, Berrington A,