One and Done: the Relative Impact of Perinatal Psychosocial Factors on Having One Child Compared to Two Children

J.F.H. Cassé, B.L. Volling, M. Oosterman, C. Schuengel

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Family size is traditionally studied by demographers, examining demographic changes in industrialized societies that affect child bearing. Those studies suggest that perceived resources, such as financial means (Sobotka et al., 2010), maternal age (McLanahan, 2004) and social support (Hrdy, 2009) are important for family size. In addition, psychologists have also successfully investigated factors relevant for having one child. Jokela (2010) found that more negatively perceived infant temperament and toddler cognitive ability increased chances of not having a second child. Leahy-Warren and McCarthy (2010) showed that mothers with one child had lower parenting self-efficacy than mothers with two children, arguing that more parenting experiences enhanced self-efficacy in mothers with two children. However, it may be that mothers having a second child have higher parenting self-efficacy than mothers deciding on one child as result of feeling more successful as a first-time parent. Postnatal depressive symptoms in first-time mothers have been found to result in more negative feelings towards their child (Fowles, 1996), possibly also influencing women not to have a second child. From a biosocial perspective, lower parenting self-efficacy and more depressive symptoms (Green & Murray, 1994) in women could already play a role before birth of the first child. Kohler (2005b) and Foster (2000) suggest that women have a biosocial endowment (i.e. preexisting differences) that
guides them to have or not to have a second child. The current study sought to gain more insight into the relative impact of perceived resources and preexisting differences in a prenatal model (N = 181 first-time pregnant women) and perceived resources and psychosocial factors in three postnatal models (3 months: N = 175; 1 year: N = 172; 2 years: N = 174) on not having a second child. Hierarchical logistic regressions were used to compare women with two children and women pregnant of a second child to women with one child that stated not to want a second child (see Table 1 for variables per time point). Results are presented in Table 2. As expected, perceived resources were found to have a large impact on not having a second child in all four models. The impact of perceived resources grew from the prenatal model to 1 year and slightly decreased to 2 years. Income and age were most important, and support had a small effect at 1 year and 2 years. The control variable child gender was also significant, indicating that having a girl resulted in higher chances of having one child. Although parenting self-efficacy and temperament were not significant in the postnatal models, interestingly, results indicated there were preexisting psychosocial differences between women that influenced having one child instead of two children. Small decreases in prenatal parenting self-efficacy were related to increased chances of having one child. The current study suggests that, besides the combined impact of income, age and support, prenatal parenting self-efficacy is relevant for not having a second child. Future research should further examine prenatal psychosocial factors in the context of perceived resources to understand mechanisms related to family size.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2014
EventICIS -
Duration: 1 Jan 20141 Jan 2014




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