Influences on the Link Between Fertility Intentions and Behavioural Outcomes

Lessons from a European Comparative Study
  • Zsolt Spéder
  • Balázs Kapitány


This chapter aims to provide an insight into fertility decision making, concentrating in particular on links between fertility intentions and actual behaviour. Both the discussion of theoretical approaches and the empirical analysis enable us to gain a more accurate insight into the intention–behaviour link. After surveying the relevant literature, the chapter gives a broad overview of different kinds of factors that may contribute to the success or failure of the realisation of fertility intentions. The empirical section investigates the realisation of time-related positive fertility intentions using a comparative approach and exploiting the unique advantages of a longitudinal panel design. Four medium-sized European countries are compared, all with rather different fertility regimes, namely the Netherlands and Switzerland (Western), and Hungary and Bulgaria (post-Communist). Using four harmonised longitudinal panel surveys, a typology of fertility intentions and outcomes is constructed, and common patterns and country-specific factors are studied. By employing multinominal logistical regression models, factors influencing postponement, abandonment and realisation of childbearing intentions are uncovered. Our results indicate that in all four countries age, partnership status and education influence the realisation of fertility intentions in comparable ways; however, the specific effects of some of these factors differ. Our theoretical considerations and empirical results reveal aspects of the intention–behaviour link that could – to some extent – be easily accommodated to the TPB approach, but which also pose challenges to this theoretical framework.


Ideational Factor Fertility Behaviour Fertility Intention Intention Realisation Partnership Status 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We are very thankful to the researchers of the REPRO project for providing useful feedback about an earlier draft of our paper.


  1. Adsera, A. (2005). Differences in desired fertility and actual fertility: An economic analysis of the Spanish case (IZA DP. No. 1584, p. 40). Bonn: Institute for the Study of Labor.Google Scholar
  2. Ajzen, I. (1988). Attitudes, personality and behavior. Buckingham: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Ajzen, I. (1991). The theory of planned behavior. Organisational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 50, 179–211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Ajzen, I. (2002). Perceived behavioral control, self-efficacy, locus of control, and the theory of planned behavior. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 32(4), 665–683.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Ajzen, I. (2011). Reflections on Morgan and Bachrach’s critique. In Vienna yearbook of population research (Vol. 9, pp. 63–69). Vienna: Vienna Institute of Demography.Google Scholar
  6. Ajzen, I., & Fishbein, M. (1980). Understanding attitudes and predicting social behavior. Upper Saddle River: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  7. Avdeev, A. (2003). On the way to one-child life: Are we beyond the point to return? Some considerations concerning the fertility decrease in Russia. In I. E. Kotowska & J. Joźviak (Eds.), Population of central and eastern Europe. Challenges and opportunities (pp. 139–163). Warsaw: Statistical Publishing Establishment.Google Scholar
  8. Barber, J. S. (2001). Ideational influences on the transition to parenthood: Attitudes toward childbearing and competing alternatives. Social Psychology Quarterly, 64(2), 101–127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Berrington, A. (2004). Perpetual postponers? Women’s, men’s and couple’s fertility intentions and subsequent fertility behaviour. Population Trends, 117, 9–19.Google Scholar
  10. Billari, F. C., Philipov, D., & Testa, M. R. (2009). Attitudes, norms and perceived behavioural control: Explaining fertility intention in Bulgaria. European Journal of Population, 25, 439–465.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Billari, F. C., Goisis, A., Liefbroer, A. C., Settersten, R. A., Aassve, A., Hagestad, G., & Spéder, Z. (2010). Social age deadlines for the childbearing of women and men. Human Reproduction. Published December 15, 2010. doi: 10.1093/humrep/deq360.
  12. Bohinger, D. S., Krosnick, J. A., Berent, M. K., & Fabriger, L. R. (1995). The causes and consequences of attitude importance. In R. E. Petty & J. A. Krosnick (Eds.), Attitude strength: Antecedents and consequences (Ohio State University series on attitudes and persuasion, pp. 159–190). Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  13. Bongaarts, J., & Feeney, G. (1998). On the quantum and tempo of fertility. Population and Development Review, 24(2), 707–726.Google Scholar
  14. Bühler, C., & Philipov, D. (2005). Social capital related to fertility: Theoretical foundations and empirical evidence from Bulgaria. In W. Lutz & G. Feichtinger (Eds.), Vienna yearbook of population research (pp. 53–81). Vienna: Austrian Academy of Sciences Press.Google Scholar
  15. Davidson, A. R., & Beach, L. R. (1981). Error patterns in the prediction of fertility behavior. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 11(6), 475–488.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Davidson, A. R., & Jaccard, J. J. (1979). Variables that moderate the attitude-behavior relations: Results from a longitudinal survey. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 11, 475–488.Google Scholar
  17. Dorbritz, J., & Ruckdeschel, K. (2005). Kinderlosigkeit in Deutschland – Ein europäischer Sonderweg? Daten, Trends und Gründe. In D. Konietzka & M. Kreyenfeld (Eds.), Ein Leben ohne Kinder. Kinderlosigkeit in Deutschland (pp. 45–81). Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.Google Scholar
  18. Dykstra, P. A., Kalmijn, M., Knijn, T. C. M., Komter, A. E., Liefbroer, A. C., & Mulder, C. H. (2007). Codebook of the Netherlands Kinship panel study, a multi-actor, multi-method panel study on solidarity in family relationships, Wave 2 (NKPS Working Paper No. 6). The Hague: Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute.Google Scholar
  19. Ermisch, J. F. (2002). Economic models of women’s employment and fertility. In J. J. Siegers, J. de Jong-Gierveld, & E. van Imhoff (Eds.), Female labour market behaviour and fertility. A rational choice approach (pp. 179–190). Berlin: Springer.Google Scholar
  20. Fishbein, M. (1972). Toward an understanding of family planning behaviors. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 2(3), 214–227.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Fokema, T., de Valk, H., de Beer, J., & van Duin, C. (2008). The Netherlands: Childbearing within the context of a “Poldermodel” society. Demographic Research, 19, art. 21, 743–794.
  22. Heaton, T. B., Jacobson, C. K., & Holland, K. (1999). Persistence and change in decisions to remain childless. Journal of Marriage and Family, 61(2), 531–539.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Heckhausen, J., Wrosch, C., & Fleeson, W. (2001). Developmental regulation before and after developmental deadline: The sample case of “biological clock” for childbearing. Psychology and Aging, 16(3), 400–413.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Heuveline, P., & Timberlake, J. M. (2004). The role of cohabitation in family formation: The United States in comparative perspective. Journal of Marriage and Family, 66(5), 1214–1230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Iacovou, M., & Tavares, L. (2011). Yearning, learning and conceding: Reasons man and women change their childbearing intentions. Population and Development Review, 37, 89–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Jaccard, J. J., & Davidson, A. R. (1976). The relation of psychological, social and economic variables to fertility related decisions. Demography, 13(3), 329–338.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kapitány, B. (2003). Módszertan és dokumentáció [Methodes and documentation]. Életünk fordulópontjai Műhelytanulmányok DRI Budapest, No. 2.Google Scholar
  28. Kapitány, B., & Spéder, Zs. (2012). Success and failure in the realisation of childbearing intentions comparing influencing factors in four European countries. Population–E, 67(4), 599–629.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Koytcheva, E., & Philipov, D. (2008). Bulgaria: Ethnic differentials in rapidly declining fertility. Demographic Research, 19, Art. 13, 361–402.
  30. Kreyenfeld, M. (2001). Employment and fertility – East Germany in the 1990s. PhD dissertation, MPDIR, Rostock, p. 259.Google Scholar
  31. Krosnick, J. A., & Petty, R. E. (1995). Attitude strength: An overview. In R. E. Petty & J. A. Krosnick (Eds.), Attitude strength: Antecedents and consequences (Ohio State University series on attitudes and persuasion, pp. 1–24). Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  32. Leridon, H., (2008). La baisse de la fertilité avec l’âge. In Fiche d’Actualité, Octobre 2008, Paris: INED.Google Scholar
  33. Lesthaeghe, R. (2001). Postponement and recuperation. Recent fertility trends and forecasts in six Western European countries (Working paper IPD-WP-2001-1).Google Scholar
  34. Liefbroer, A. C. (2005). The impact of perceived costs and rewards of childbearing on entry into parenthood: Evidence from a panel study. European Journal of Population, 21, 367–391.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Liefbroer, A. C. (2009). Changes in family size intentions across young adulthood: A life-course perspective. European Journal of Population, 25(4), 365–386.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Liefbroer, A. C., & Billari, F. C. (2010). Bringing norms back in: A theoretical and empirical discussion of their importance for understanding demographic behaviour. Population Space and Place, 16, 287–305.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Miller, W. B., & Pasta, D. J. (1994). The psychology of child timing: A measurement instrument and a model. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 24, 218–250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Miller, W. B., & Pasta, D. J. (1995). Behavioral intentions: Which ones predict fertility behavior in married couples? Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 25, 530–555.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Miller, W. B., & Pasta, D. J. (2004). The psychology of child timing: A measurement instruments and a model. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 24(3), 218–250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Monnier, A. (1989). Fertility intentions and actual behaviour. A longitudinal study: 1974, 1976, 1979. Population: An English Selection, 44(1), 237–259.Google Scholar
  41. Morgan, P. S., & Rackin, H. (2010). The correspondence between fertility intentions and behavior in the United States. Population and Development Review, 36(1), 91–118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Mynarska, M. A. (2009). Deadline for parenthood: Fertility postponement and age norms in Poland. European Journal of Population. doi: 10.1007/s10680-009-9194-x. Published online: 18.Google Scholar
  43. Noack, T., & Østby, L. (2002). Free to choose – but unable to stick to it? Norwegian fertility expectations and subsequent behavior in the following 20 years. In E. Kijzing & M. Corijn (Eds.), Dynamics of fertility and partnership in Europe. Insights and lessons from comparative research (Vol. 2). New York/Geneva: United Nations.Google Scholar
  44. Perelli-Harris, B. (2005). The path to lowest-low fertility in Ukraine. Population Studies, 59(1), 55–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Petty, R. E., Haugtvedt, C. P., & Smith, S. E. (1995). Elaboration as a determinant of attitude strength: Creating attitudes that are persistent, resistant and predictive of behavior. In R. E. Petty & J. A. Krosnick (Eds.), Attitude strength: Antecedents and consequences (Ohio State University series on attitudes and persuasion, pp. 93–130). Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  46. Philipov, D. (2009). The effect of competing intentions and behaviour on short-term childbearing intentions and subsequent childbearing. European Journal of Population, 25(4), 525–548.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Philipov, D., & Berghammer, C. (2007). Religion and fertility ideals, intentions and behaviour: A comparative study of European countries. In Vienna yearbook of population research (pp. 271–305). Vienna: Vienna Institute of demography.Google Scholar
  48. Philipov, D., Spéder, Zs., & Billari, F. C. (2006). Soon, later or ever: The impact of anomie and social capital on fertility intentions in Bulgaria (2002) and Hungary (2001). Population Studies, 60(3), 289–308.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Quesnel-Vallée, A., & Morgan, S. P. (2003). Missing the target? Correspondence of fertility intentions and behavior in the U.S. Population Research and Policy Review, 22(5–6), 497–525.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Rindfuss, R. R., Morgan, S. P., & Swicegood, G. (1988). First births in America: Changes in the timing of parenthood. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  51. Rodin, J. (2011). Fertility intentions and risk management: Exploring the fertility decline in Eastern Europe during transition. Ambio, 40, 221–230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Schoen, R., Astone, N. M., Kim, Y. J., Nathanson, C. A., & Fields, J. M. (1999). Do fertility intentions affect fertility behavior? Journal of Marriage and the Family, 61(3), 790–799.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Settersten, R. A., & Hagestad, G. O. (1996). What’s the latest? Cultural age deadlines for educational and work transition. The Gerontologist, 36(5), 602–613.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Spéder, Zs., & Kamarás, F. (2008). Hungary: Secular fertility decline with distinct period fluctuations. Demographic Research, 19, Article 18, 599–664.Google Scholar
  55. Spéder, Zs., & Kapitány, B. (2009). How are time-dependent childbearing intentions realized? Realization, postponement, abandonment, bringing forward. European Journal of Population, 25(4), 503–523.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Spéder, Z., & Kapitány, B. (2014). Failure to realize fertility intentions: A key aspect of the post-communist fertility transition. Population Research and Policy Review, 33(3), 393–418. doi: 10.1007/s11113-013-9313-6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Testa, M. R., & Toulemon, L. (2006). Family formation in France: Individual preferences and subsequent outcomes. In Vienna yearbook of population research (pp. 41–75). Vienna: Vienna Institute of Demography.Google Scholar
  58. Thomson, E. (1997). Couple childbearing desires, intentions, and births. Demography, 34(3), 343–354.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Vikat, A., Spéder, Z., Beets, G., Billari, F. C., Bühler, C., Désesquelles, A., Fokkema, T., Hoem, J. M., MacDonald, A., Neyer, G., Pailhé, A., Pinnelli, A., & Solaz, A. (2007). Generations and gender survey (GGS): Towards a better understanding of relationships and processes in the life course. Demographic Research on-line Journal, 17, Article 14, 389–440.
  60. Voorpostel, M., Tillmann, R., Lebert, F., Weaver, B., Kuhn, U., Lipps, O., Ryser, V.-A., Schmid, F., & Wernli, B. (2009). Swiss Household Panel Userguide (1999–2008), Wave 10, December 2009. Lausanne: FORS.Google Scholar
  61. Waite, L., & Galagher, M. (2000). The case for marriage. New York: Broadway Books.Google Scholar
  62. Westoff, C., & Ryder, N. (1977). The predictive validity of reproductive intentions. Demography, 4, 431–453.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Hungarian Demographic Research InstituteBudapestHungary

Personalised recommendations