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REFEREED ARTICLES - Differences between fertility desires and intentions: implications for theory, research and policy


  • Warren B. Miller


In previous research I have theorised that there is a three-step motivational sequence that drives fertility behaviour, beginning with motivational traits, continuing with fertility desires and concluding with fertility intentions. In this article I focus on four properties of fertility desires and intentions, examining some recent research findings that bear on the similarities and differences between these two constructs. The four properties include the degree to which either construct has direct genetic antecedents, the degree to which either construct directly predicts behaviour, what type of dimension is used to measure each construct, and the effects that each construct has on the individual's satisfaction with being pregnant. The findings regarding these four properties suggest that fertility desires are intermediate between two evolutionally distinct motive systems that drive reproductive behaviour. The findings also suggest additional research questions that require further pursuit. Finally, the findings inform certain fertility-related policy issues, in particular the gap between desired or intended fertility and actual fertility.

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  • Warren B. Miller, 2011. "REFEREED ARTICLES - Differences between fertility desires and intentions: implications for theory, research and policy," Vienna Yearbook of Population Research, Vienna Institute of Demography (VID) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna, vol. 9(1), pages 75-98.
  • Handle: RePEc:vid:yearbk:v:9:y:2011:i:1:p:75-98

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ajzen, Icek, 1991. "The theory of planned behavior," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 50(2), pages 179-211, December.
    2. Alicia Adsera, 2006. "An Economic Analysis of the Gap Between Desired and Actual Fertility: The Case of Spain," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 4(1), pages 75-95, March.
    3. Maria Iacovou & Lara Patr√åcio Tavares, 2010. "Yearning, learning and conceding: (Some of) the reasons people change their childbearing intentions," Working Papers 029, "Carlo F. Dondena" Centre for Research on Social Dynamics (DONDENA), Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi.
    4. Kellie J. Hagewen & S. Philip Morgan, 2005. "Intended and Ideal Family Size in the United States, 1970-2002," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 31(3), pages 507-527.
    5. Warren Miller, 1986. "Proception: An important fertility behavior," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 23(4), pages 579-594, November.
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    Cited by:

    1. Kuhnt, Anne-Kristin & Buhr, Petra, 2016. "Biographical risks and their impact on uncertainty in fertility expectations: A gender-specific study based on the German Family Panel," Duisburger Beiträge zur soziologischen Forschung 2016-03, University of Duisburg-Essen, Institute of Sociology.
    2. Maria Rita Testa & Laura Cavalli & Alessandro Rosina, 2014. "The Effect of Couple Disagreement about Child-Timing Intentions: A Parity-Specific Approach," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 40(1), pages 31-53, March.
    3. Christine A. Bachrach & S. Philip Morgan, 2013. "A Cognitive–Social Model of Fertility Intentions," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 39(3), pages 459-485, September.
    4. Maria Rita Testa & Valeria Bordone & Beata Osiewalska & Vegard Skirbekk, 2016. "Are daughters’ childbearing intentions related to their mothers’ socio-economic status?," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 35(21), pages 581-616, September.
    5. repec:kap:poprpr:v:36:y:2017:i:4:d:10.1007_s11113-017-9433-5 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Heather M. Rackin & Christine A. Bachrach, 2016. "Assessing the Predictive Value of Fertility Expectations Through a Cognitive–Social Model," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer;Southern Demographic Association (SDA), vol. 35(4), pages 527-551, August.
    7. Warren B. Miller & Jennifer S. Barber & Heather H. Gatny, 2013. "The effects of ambivalent fertility desires on pregnancy risk in young women in the USA," Population Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 67(1), pages 25-38, March.
    8. repec:kap:jfamec:v:39:y:2018:i:1:d:10.1007_s10834-017-9548-1 is not listed on IDEAS

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