Internet and the Postponement of Age Deadlines for Childbearing

Alice Goisis , University College London
Francesco Billari, Bocconi University

Age is a salient dimension that structures and regulates individuals’ childbearing plans for women and men. Prior life course theory research reveals the existence of age deadlines for both starting and completing childbearing. We argue that the advent of the internet, which has revolutionized access to information on the potential consequences for health of important behavioural choices, might have influenced individuals’ perception of age deadlines for childbearing. We hypothesize that this occurred because the internet provided further access to, for example, information on contraception, assisted reproductive technologies and age-related infertility. In this study, we use the 2006-2007 European Social Survey and test for the first time whether using the internet every day is associated with upper, lower and ideal age deadlines for childbearing for men and women. In the unadjusted models, we find that using the internet everyday (which 27% of the respondents declared to do) is significantly associated with later (upper, lower, ideal) age deadlines for both women and men. The effects are stronger for men, which could reflect the health concerns (often discussed in online forums and websites) towards pregnancies at ages 35 or above for women. In models adjusted for individuals’ socio-demographic characteristics and health (e.g. education, income, marital status, parenthood, self-rated health), the associations are partially attenuated. Overall, the findings suggest that access to the internet could represent a key driving factor behind individuals’ postponement of age deadlines for childbearing.

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