Fertility intentions and actual behaviour. A longitudinal study: 1974, 1976, 1979

By Alain Monnier

The notion of "intended" family size may be regarded as a fixed intention which will cover the couple’s total reproductive lifespan (this concept is implicit in surveys on ideal or desired numbers of children, for instance), or it may be viewed as an attitude which depends on circumstances at the time and be modified by population policies designed to influence fertility by legal or economic measures. The reality lies between these two extremes. Each couple is likely to have a general idea about the number of children they would like to have, but, in practice, their behaviour will depend on the economic and social circumstances of the time when they produce their families. In the longitudinal survey which is described in this paper, Alain Monnier[**] analyses interviews with some 2,000 women who were asked questions about their intended family size in 1974 and who were re-interviewed in 1976 and 1979. This has made it possible to compare their actual behaviour with their intentions and to discuss the reasons which may have led them to revise their intentions.

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