Why are fewer women having children?

Nowadays, there still exists an inseparable relationship between #women and #motherhood. In some societies, women who remain childless fail to achieve this social-cultural construction of ‘woman’ and consequently, experience negative stigmas and stereotypes.

However, in recent years, it has been seen as an increasing proportion of those who remain childless. Between 1986 and 2006, for women in the peak childbearing age, there was a 50% increase in the number of childless women and an additional 8% childless by 2011. In 2000 was estimated that if the rate of childlessness would continue, 24% of women would remain childless at the end of their reproductive life.


The intention to have or not have a child is determined by three factors,

  1. behavioural or perceived consequences,

  2. normative or perceived expectations, and

  3. control beliefs.

Behavioural beliefs are concerned with the consequences of an individual's behaviour. Normative beliefs are related to perceived social expectations by the individual. Control beliefs are concerned with the perceived presence of factors that can influence a person’s ability to have a child.

However, attitudes do not affect behaviour when that behaviour is not socially supported. For example, there is found that positive attitudes toward childbearing lead to earlier childbearing, particularly among married women.

It is believed that more traditional views of women are associated with increased desires for a greater number of children.


But what are women’s attitudes towards children and motherhood? Can these attitudes predict future childlessness?


Attitudes toward the behaviour are concerned with the degree to which a person has a positive or negative assessment of the behaviour of interest. A woman who has a negative attitude towards children and motherhood would be less likely to act on the behaviour to become a mother, and thus remain childless. Women who believed that children can greatly impact their freedom showed a higher possibility for childlessness in the future.


Therefore, greater valuing of leisure time is associated with a decreased valuing of motherhood. Women who are opened to experiences and aren’t influenced by the traditional norms also show low fertility.


On the other hand, women who believed that a life without children is not fully complete showed an increased possibility of future motherhood. Therefore, positive attitudes towards children and motherhood do increase the likelihood of becoming a mother.

Source: Women’s attitudes towards children and motherhood: A predictor of future childlessness?
Journal of Social Inclusion, 2015
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