First Education, then Children? A Qualitative Study of Students’ Childbearing Attitudes and Intentions
preprintposted on 23.04.2021, 13:37 by Sara Thalberg
In all Western countries, students have significantly lower fertility than non-students of the same age. Extended education is therefore considered one of the most important factors behind the postponement of first birth. This study investigates students‟ childbearing intentions and the motivations behind them through individual in-depth interviews with 25 childless students enrolled in higher education in Sweden. The results suggest that the postponement of childbearing until completion of education is above all a question of economic security. The importance of completing one‟s education and achieving economic security is weakened by age, however, and the biological risks associated with postponement of childbearing are found to be a significant factor in particularly the female students‟ childbearing intentions. Mental well-being and knowing what you want to do with your life are also important preconditions in this regard. A sense of being on the “right” educational track increases the feeling of security and the inclination to have children. On most issues, male and female students reasoned along the same lines. One gender difference, however, was that female students had much more knowledge about the parental leave insurance system, and parental leave and their benefit level was something they took into account, and planned for, to a greater extent than men did.