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On the psychological determinants of fertility: a panorama of concepts and approaches, and evidence from eastern Germany


  • Holger von der Lippe

    (Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany)


In this paper we study the transition to parenthood, analyzing data from three waves of a psychological longitudinal survey from Rostock, eastern Germany. We apply hazard regressions in order to predict the timing of first births of 117 men and 124 women born in 1970 and 1971. Subjects, who were in their 20s during the 1990s, made their family decisions during the most turbulent times of societal transformation in eastern Germany following unification. We hypothesized a crucial relevance of personality traits, coping-styles, and other psychological variables for the prediction of fertility in this context. Results for men show that dispositional self-actualization and internal control-styles as well as a tendency to social withdrawal decrease the probability of fatherhood. For women, dispositional emotional stability and mental health decrease the probability of motherhood, whereas a tendency toward rationalization increases it. We discuss findings in light of the gender-specific life-span development of people’s personality and control behavior.

Suggested Citation

  • Holger von der Lippe, 2006. "On the psychological determinants of fertility: a panorama of concepts and approaches, and evidence from eastern Germany," MPIDR Working Papers WP-2006-050, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:dem:wpaper:wp-2006-050

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Michaela Kreyenfeld & Dirk Konietzka, 2004. "Angleichung oder Verfestigung von Differenzen? Geburtenentwicklung und Familienformen in Ost- und Westdeutschland," MPIDR Working Papers WP-2004-025, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.
    2. FFF1Michaela NNN1Kreyenfeld, 2004. "Fertility Decisions in the FRG and GDR: An Analysis with Data from the German Fertility and Family Survey," Demographic Research Special Collections, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 3(11), pages 275-318, April.
    3. Warren Miller, 1992. "Personality traits and developmental experiences as antecedents of childbearing motivation," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 29(2), pages 265-285, May.
    4. Laura Bernardi & Andreas Klärner & Holger von der Lippe, 2006. "Perceptions of job instability and the prospects of parenthood. A comparison between Eastern and Western Germany," MPIDR Working Papers WP-2006-017, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.
    5. Michael Lechner, 2005. "The Empirical Analysis of East German Fertility after," Labor and Demography 0505005, EconWPA.
    6. Michaela Kreyenfeld, 2004. "Fertility decisions in the FRG and GDR," MPIDR Working Papers WP-2004-008, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.
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    Cited by:

    1. Lara Tavares, 2008. "Who delays childbearing? The relationships between fertility, education and personality traits," Working Papers 009, "Carlo F. Dondena" Centre for Research on Social Dynamics (DONDENA), Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi.
    2. Sarah Gibney & Liam Delaney & Mary Codd & Tony Fahey, 2017. "Lifetime Childlessness, Depressive Mood and Quality of Life Among Older Europeans," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 130(1), pages 305-323, January.

    More about this item


    Germany (Neue Bundesländer); fertility determinants; first birth; life span; psychology;

    JEL classification:

    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics
    • Z0 - Other Special Topics - - General

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