Do Socioeconomic Differences in Family Size Reflect Cultural Differences in Confidence and Social Support for Parenting?

  • Lareen A. Newman


This article details family size differences by socio-economic area in metropolitan South Australia and suggests that these differences may be linked to cultural differences in parenting confidence and skills, and in social supports for parenting. The paper analyses Census data on average completed family size and family size distribution in six different areas. In all age groups this shows a negative correlation between family size and the socio-economic status of the area. Secondly, based on analysis of interview data with 38 mothers and 24 fathers and a small survey of 44 parents-to-be, the article suggests that the quantitative patterns may partly reflect differences in the proportions of people in each area who see being parents and having larger families as desirable and achievable undertakings for which they have the requisite personal skills and social supports to minimise adverse impacts on their own parental health and lifestyle. The article concludes by hypothesising that differential fertility levels between groups or areas partly reflect differences in levels of confidence, skills and social support for parenting, and that a cultural “crisis in parenthood” as well as a greater focus on intensive parenting may be more widespread in higher status groups which is reflected in their lower fertility.


Fertility Family size Parenthood Socio-economic status Mixed methods research Population policy 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Australian Health Inequities Program, Department of Public Health, Health Sciences BuildingFlinders University of South AustraliaAdelaideAustralia

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