Expectations and Reality of Childbearing

Marion Burkimsher , Independent Researcher and Université de Lausanne

Previous studies have looked at the trajectory of wellbeing through childbearing. This project looks more specifically at the level of satisfaction with relationship to partner before the birth, during pregnancy and in the years immediately after the birth. We use the two waves of the Gender and Generations Survey (GGS). There is a peak in couple satisfaction during pregnancy followed by a dip in the first year of the baby’s life; men tend to be more content than women; a first child leads to more couple satisfaction than a second; and couples in Austria are exceptionally happy. In Wave 1 of the GGS respondents were asked what impact they expected having a child would have on closeness to their partner. The majority expected that it would bring them closer. However, when we look at how a couple’s relationship actually changes, we find that, on average, couple satisfaction declines slightly. We also looked at financial stress through the childbearing years. We found that many young couples in Bulgaria were struggling; and young German couples were not finding it as easy as those in Austria. However, on average, households tended to find it a little easier to make ends meet in the years immediately after having a child. This is contrary to the expectations declared in Wave 1, when most respondents expected their financial situation to become worse if they had a child. The contrast between expectations and reality in the spheres of relationship evolution and financial coping through childbearing is noteworthy.

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 Presented in Session P1. Poster Session Fertility, Family and the Life Course