Fertility Intentions: There’s More than We Think (and Sometimes Less)

Christine A. Bachrach, Duke University and University of Maryland
S. Philip Morgan, Duke University

Fertility intentions have been the subject of debate in demography almost as long as they have been a staple of fertility research. In this paper, we analyze intentions as one of many cognitive processes that participate in shaping fertility behaviors. Drawing on advances in cognitive science and an integrative theory of fertility and family behaviors, we explore the relationship of intentions to other brain processes and explore the ways in which socially structured environments shape these processes, the formation of intentions, and fertility outcomes. We suggest that research on cognitive processes leading to fertility look beyond fertility intentions to consider a broader range of cognitive mechanisms and a broader range of behavioral intentions. We suggest that fertility intentions be conceptualized as a potential outcome of a developmental process and that measurement strategies that target multiple elements of this process may be more effective in understanding fertility behaviors.

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Presented in Session 181: Fertility Intentions