Motivatie voor het ouderschap : een onderzoek naar de invloed van attitudes op het proces van gezinsvorming

M. Niphuis - Nell

    Research output: Thesisexternal PhD, WU


    The Netherlands National Fertility Survey, conducted in 1969, was the first national fertility survey in the Netherlands. Its findings led to the conclusion that conventional social-demographic variables were no longer of very much significance in accounting for differences in fertility and that it was necessary to look for socialpsychological factors to account for differential fertility (Moors, 1974). A literature study was then carried oud with the aim of finding a research instrument which would be able to help identify social-psychological factors which would account for differences in fertility behaviour (Niphuis-Nell, 1974). The number of alternatives was very limited and the choice fell on a set of questions out of an as yet experimental questionnaire which had been used by James T. Fawcett in Hawaii (United States) in preparing the first phase of the international Value of Children project. The set of questions which we took over contained two open-ended questions on the advantages and disadvantages of having children as compared with not having children, nine scales based on Likert items and relating principally to the perceived satisfactions and costs of having children, and a number of structured questions about the reasons why people did or did not want (more) children.

    Using the chosen set of questions, a pilot study was carried out in 1974 amongst 100 married women aged 35 or below. Chapter 2 contains a report of this pilot study, concentrating on the choice of instrument and construction of the scales. While the scales are to a large extent comparable with those from the Value of Children project, they are not in fact entirely comparable because a number of new items was added and the items were not grouped in exactly the same way. When various things had been taken into account, the result was five scales which measure various satisfactions from having children: continuity and security, motherhood satisfactions, social identity, happiness and affection, and well-being; one scale measuring psychological, social and financial (direct) costs of having children; and two scales measuring other factors which influence the decision-making process, namely, sensitiveness to social control, and decisionmindedness. A modernity scale was also included.

    In Chapter 3, using the findings of the pilot study, a start is made on formulating the hypotheses to be tested in the planned Netherlands Survey on Fertility and Parenthood Motivation (NOVOM). The results of the pilot study were hopeful. However, the first results of the NOVOM, described in Chapter 4, were decidedly less so. We therefore decided to concentrate the analysis mainly on two important hypotheses:
    1. The social-psychological and social-demographic factors both exert an influence on fertility attitudes, although the influence of the social-psychological factors is stronger than that of the social-demographic factors.
    2. The social-psychological factors occupy a more or less intermediate position between the social-demographic factors and fertility attitudes.

    The two-stage sample of the NOVOM consisted of 4522 women who entered marriage in the years 1963 to 1973 and who were still married at the time of the survey. The field work was carried out from the end of February until the beginning of May 1975. As well as the questions for the parenthood motivation section, the questionnaire contained a large number of questions on the history of pregnancies, fertility attitudes, family planning and use of contraception, and social characteristics such as the woman's educational level, religion and occupation.

    Chapter 5 contains the findings from the answers to the open questions about the advantages and disadvantages of having children and the questions on the reasons why no (more) children were desired. The most frequently mentioned advantages were "good company, nice" (mentioned by 37 per cent of the women), "gives purpose, meaning, substance to life, knowing what one is working for" (28 per cent) and "having responsibility" (20 per cent). The most frequently mentioned disadvantages were "being tied down (to the home), loss of freedom" (60 per cent), "the worry, also for later when they are older" (18 per cent) and "the restrictions on other activities - apart from working outside the home" (11 per cent). The five most important reasons why women did not want (more) children were: "because I am worried about overpopulation", "because it would make it very difficult to have any time over for oneself", "because my husband does not want a (next) child", "because I think the future looks bleak", and "because then 1 would not be able to devote enough care and attention to my other child(ren)". When these findings are examined according to the number of children desired, then it appears that the answer pattern of the women who do not want any children at all is most markedly at variance with the others, both for the open questions and the question about the reasons why no (more) children are wanted. They are followed in this respect by the women who want one child. It is noticeable here that, as far as their emphasis on certain positive or negative aspects of having children is concerned, women who want one child are not merely a weaker reflection of the women who do not want any children. Those who want one child have a more or less individual attitude pattern as regards parenthood, which in fact is more closely linked with the attitude pattern of the (potential) parents than with that of respondents who reject parenthood.

    In Chapter 6 there is an examination, on the basis of the previously mentioned scales and a number of socialdemographic variables, of the differences between those childless women who do and those who do not want a (first) child. An account of the scales as they were constructed in the NOVOM is provided in Appendix B. Two scales were re-named, viz. "inclination to reflection" (formerly: decision-mindedness) and "completeness of marriage and family life" (formerly: well-being); the modernity scale of Smith and Inkeles was replaced by that of Gough; and a new scale was added, namely "interest in alternative activities" (or: indirect costs). The voluntarily childless women perceive fewer satisfactions and more costs of having children and they have a greater interest in alternative activities than women who do intend to have one or more children. Were the social-demographic variables are concerned, the following differences appear: voluntarily childless women have a higher mean age at first marriage, greater numbers of them are non-church members, they have a higher level of education and higher
    occupational status, husbands with a higher level of education, higher occupational status and a higher income, more of them live in cities and they more often have a job than the mothers and (or) the delays. From a regression analysis it could be seen that the social-demographic and social-psychological factors together accounted for 33 per cent of the variance in the intention to have a first child. This amounted to 29 per cent for the ten social-psychological factors on their own and 12 per cent for the seven social-demographic factors on their own. When we controlled for the social-psychological variables, the social-demographic variables still accounted for only five per cent of the variance in the intention. The main social-psychological factors in the regression equation were "completeness of marriage and family life", "costs", "interest in alternative activities", and "social identity", and the main socialdemographic variables were the husband's income, whether or not the wife was a non-church member, the wife's age at marriage and the educational level of the wife. As had been assumed, these four main social-demographic variables do in fact influence the four main social-psychological factors (explained variances from 12 to 16 per cent), with one exception. The perception of "costs" only appeared to be slightly influenced, if at all, by these factors (one per cent). Thus it appeared that the hypotheses formulated in Chapter 4 were confirmed for the women without children, except for the fact that the perception of (direct) costs does not occupy an intermediate position between the social-demographic variables and the intention to have a first child, but exerts an independent influence on the intention, quite apart from these variables.

    Chapter 7 examines, in a similar way to the previous chapter, the differences between those women with one child who do want a second child and those with one child who do not want another, also the differences between those women with two children who do want a third and those with two who do not want any more. An analysis of higher parities was only possible to a limited extent on account of the small number of women in this category. Where the social-demographic variables are concerned, the following differences appear: women who have one child and do not intend to have another, compared with those who have one child and do intend to have or already have another, are overrepresented amongst women who only had primary schooling, those whose husbands only had primary schooling and have a low income, those who work outside the home and moreover do so out of a strong economic motivation, those who are non-church members, and towndwellers. As the women who have two children and do not want any more form the modal category, the standard or comparison category, there is nothing particular to say about them. Women who have two children and do want a third child or already have one, in comparison with this standard category, are overrepresented amongst the higher educational levels, amongst women who join in the work in the agricultural or horticultural concern owned and run by their husbands, amongst Calvinists and amongst those living in rural areas. There was no-one either amongst those working in agriculture or amongst the Calvinists in our sample who opted for childlessness and these were the sub- groups that were least likely to opt for a single child family. There is thus a clear trend towards larger families amongst these women. However where the educational level variable is concerned, a noticeable ambiguity appears. Highly educated women are overrepresented on the one hand amongst the voluntarily childless and on the other hand amongst those who opt for a third child.

    The simple connection between the ten social-psychological factors and the intention to have or not to have another child was considerably less strong amongst women with one child and with two children than was the case in Chapter 6 for women without children. The total variance in the intention accounted for by these independent variables was only four per cent, both for women with one child and for women with two children. The variance accounted for by social-demographic variables was also lower than for the women without children, viz. six per cent for women with one child and five per cent for women with two children. Both groups of independent variables together accounted for totals of ten and nine per cent respectively. The main reason for the low explanatory value of the socialpsychological factors is probably to be found in the levels of specificity in measuring the independent variables on the one hand and the dependent variables on the other, the connection between the two being poor or non-existent. The measurement of the perception of satisfactions and costs concentrated on the satisfactions and costs of having children as such, by implication as opposed to not having children, and regardless of the number of children. The explained variance in total intended family size was also low, namely eight per cent for the social-psychological factors alone, seven per cent for the social-demographic factors alone, and 13 per cent for both groups of independent variables together.

    From the multivariate analysis it appeared that for women with one child, the intention regarding a second child is influenced most strongly by modernity (a modern attitude leads to less intention of having a second child), by whether or not the wife works and by the husband's educational level. Amongst women with two children, the intention regarding a third child appeared to be in influenced most strongly by the perception of the satisfaction "completeness of marriage and family life", by the educational level of both husband and wife, and by whether or not the wife belonged to a church. The perception of the satisfaction "happiness and affection" was of moderate significance for both parities. However, the effect of this influence was to a certain extent unexpected. It was the case for both parities that attaching importance to this satisfaction reduced the inclination to have another child. This is probably the result of an orientation towards a strong indidivual affective relationship between parent and child which because of its intensity cannot easily be maintained with several children at once. The most important variables influencing total desired family size in the end appeared to be "completeness of marriage and family life" and whether or not the wife belonged to a church, followed by "happiness and affection" and "inclination to reflection".

    It can be concluded from this that the research into the relation between the intention of women with one child or two children regarding whether or not to have another child and the total desired family size on the one hand, and the social-psychological and social-demographic variables on the other hand, did not produce any confirmation for the two hypotheses mentioned above. The main cause of this is the fact that the levels of specificity in measuring the independent and dependent variables were not properly attuned to each other.

    In order to obtain a more complete picture than the NOVOM alone can provide, regarding the motivation aspects which play a role in determining whether or not people have a certain number of children, a literature study was carried out based on the results of empirical research in this field in the 1970's. The results of this are given in Chapter 8. From this it emerges, amongst other things, that voluntary childlessness, the only child, and the decision to have an only child, are loaded with negative stereotyping, which may form part of the motivation for people to want a first or a second child, respectively. The presence of a first child forms a fairly strong motivation for a second, so that the first child will have the company of a brother or sister and will not grow up as an only child. Also the obstacle presented by the existence of children to the possibility of working outside the home, is perceived as more serious by (so far) childless women than by women who already have a child. In other words: after the birth of the first child, alternative activities are perceived as less important than before. The prospect of a difficult pregnancy or birth or other physical problems may also be a reason for stopping at one child. The choice of a medium-size or large family often goes together with traditional views on marriage and the family and the function of children in these.

    In Chapter 9 there is a brief consideration of the assumption formulated in Chapter 3, that the perception of satisfactions of having children is based on values and the perception of costs on individual needs. The results of the NOVOM support this view, although with the subtle distinction that the perception of indirect costs (alternative activities) is evolving more and more towards values rooted in social institutions.

    Finally in Chapter 10, a review is provided of the theoretical and methodological aspects of the socialpsychological approach in fertility research in the 1970's. Two lines of approach are distinguished here, which in theory do not differ essentially from each other, but which do show distinct differences in the research framework. We find the value of children approach in the international research project of that name, initiated by James T. Fawcett, and in fertility surveys in the Netherlands (NOVOM), Belgium, West Germany and Austria. The decision models approach has up to now only been used in smaller samples and is strongly directed towards predicting real behaviour and comparing predicted with actual behaviour after the passage of a certain length of time. This approach includes the research of Townes and others, based on the subjective expected utility theory, as well as a number of studies based on the Fishbein model, and Beckman's research based on social exchange theory. The chapter moves on to recommend that further research should be done using a Fishbein questionnaire in fertility surveys, and also that more qualitatively orientated research should be carried out amongst non-modal groups such as those who have chosen to become unmarried mothers, voluntarily and involuntarily childless people, and parents of medium-size and large families.

    Original languageDutch
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • Kooy, G.A., Promotor, External person
    Award date20 Nov 1981
    Place of PublicationWageningen
    Print ISBNs9789060017289
    Publication statusPublished - 1981


    • sociology
    • kinship
    • families

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