His and her relationship quality: effects on childbearing

Arieke J. Rijken, Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI)
Elizabeth Thomson, Stockholm University & University of Wisconsin-Madison

This study examines the influence of partner relationship quality on childbearing. One hypothesis is that couples with high quality relationships are most likely to have children, because their relationship constitutes a favourable environment to raise a child. An alternative hypothesis is based on the outcomes of a recent Dutch study, suggesting that medium levels of relationship quality lead to the highest rates of childbearing: couples with very high levels of quality relationship, who are happy with their current family situation, might see a(nother) child as a threat to this happiness. Our study is innovative in using reports from both partners on relationship quality. This enables us to examine what happens when partners have disagreeing perceptions of the quality of their relationship: we can test whether both partners need to think the relationship quality is suitable for having a child (i.e. both partners have veto power), or whether either women’s or men’s perceptions of the quality of the relationship are more crucial for childbearing. Logistic regression analyses are conducted using the first and the second wave of the Netherlands Kinship Panel Study. Our results indicate that women's perceptions of relationship quality are more important for first births than men’s, while men's perceptions of relationship quality have a larger influence on higher parity childbearing than women’s. Furthermore, we do not find unique effects of disagreeing perceptions of the relationship quality; effects of each partner’s assessments of relationship quality do not depend on the other partner’s assessment. Finally, women with medium scores on relationship quality are most likely to have a(nother) child, while women with the highest scores have the same probability to have a child as women with the lowest scores. Men with medium and high scores on relationship quality are more likely to have a(nother) child than men with low scores.

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Presented in Session 21: Gender Role Division, Gender Role Attitudes and Fertility