Low fertility in Europe has given rise to the notion of a ‘fertility crisis’. This book shifts the attention from fertility decline to why people do have children, asking what children mean to them. It investigates what role children play in how young adults plan their lives, and why and how young adults make the choices they do.

The book aims to expand our comprehension of the complex structures and cultures that influence reproductive choice, and explores three key aspects of fertility choices:

  • the processes towards having (or not having) children, and how they are underpinned by negotiations and ambivalences
  • how family policies, labour markets and personal relations interact in young adults’ fertility choices
  • social differentiation in fertility choice: how fertility rationales and reasoning may differ among women and men, and across social classes

Based on empirical studies from six nations – France, Scandinavia, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Germany and Italy (representing the high and low end of European variation in fertility rates) – the book shows how different economic, political and cultural contexts interact in young adults' fertility rationales. It will be of interest to students and scholars of sociology, anthropology, demography and gender studies.

chapter 1|11 pages

The social meaning of children and fertility change

ByAnne Lise Ellingsæter, An-Magritt Jensen, Merete Lie

chapter 2|19 pages

The politics of parenting

The meaning of children, the meaning of work
ByMarie-Thérèse Letablier

chapter 3|17 pages

Economic risk, fertility and the welfare state

Understanding individual rationales
ByAnne Lise Ellingsæter, Eirin Pedersen

chapter 4|20 pages

Flexible work

Implications for the social meaning of children
ByKarin Jurczyk

chapter 5|18 pages

Patterns of partnership and parenthood

Experiences, approaches and readiness towards commitment and creating a family
ByMai Heide Ottosen, Sofie Skovdal Mouritzen

chapter 6|16 pages

The cultural ideal of the joint decision

Illuminating values of individuality and relationality of the child choice
ByMalin Noem Ravn, Merete Lie

chapter 7|18 pages

The non-modern child?

Ambivalence about parenthood among young adults
ByDisa Bergnéhr, Eva Bernhardt

chapter 8|16 pages

Rising fertility, fewer fathers

Crossroads of networks, gender and class
ByAn-Magritt Jensen

chapter 9|17 pages

Changing fertility behaviour across two generations

The role of gender and class
ByTrude Lappegård, Turid Noack, Marit Rønsen

chapter 10|17 pages

From mothers to daughters

Intergenerational transmission of fertility norms
ByLaura Bernardi

chapter 11|10 pages

The social meaning of children embedded in institutions and personal relations

ByAnne Lise Ellingsæter, An-Magritt Jensen, Merete Lie