Attitudes to work and parenthood: Adaptation to family transitions

2019-10-14T11:39:22Z (GMT) by Eva Bernhardt Maggie Switek

While there is extensive research on the selection process, i.e. how attitudes affect family transitions such as marriage and childbearing, this paper focuses on the other dimension of the reciprocal relationship between attitudes and behavior, namely the adaptation process, thereby contributing to the small but growing research area on the connection between demographic behavior and attitude change. Such research has been limited by the fact that it requires longitudinal data on attitudes which are still relatively rare.

Our study benefits from the existence of the longitudinal data base YAPS (Young Adult Panel Study), a three-wave survey of Swedish young adults. Survey questions were used to construct two attitude indices that capture respondents’ attitudes to work and career and to parenthood, respectively. Running OLS regressions on changing attitudes as explained by life-course transitions such as union formation and childbearing, separately for men and women, we could conclude that family transitions do influence attitudes to parenthood as well as to work and career, but in opposite directions. Overall, family transitions make attitudes to parenthood become stronger and work attitudes weaker, and childbearing seems more influential than union formation.

Our results align well with the observed increase in positive attitudes to parenthood and the declining attitudes to work and career over the life course, which suggests that family transitions could be largely responsible for the attitudinal changes to work and parenthood that people experience throughout their lives.