Upbringing a major factor on family size
Thursday, 23 February 2006
Family influences and upbringing may play as much of a role in a couple's decision to have children as either career or financial pressures, according to a University of Adelaide researcher.
Lareen Newman, a Bachelor of Arts (Geography) Honours graduate from the Department of Geographical and Environmental Studies at the University of Adelaide, has recently completed her PhD thesis on how men and women's experiences of childbirth and child rearing affect Australia's birth rate.
Ms Newman, under the supervision of leading Australian demographer Professor Graeme Hugo, conducted 62 in-depth interviews with parents and also surveyed 45 individuals intending to start a family in the next two years.
"If parents demonstrate they can combine parenting and work without too much conflict, that message seems to be passed on to their children," Ms Newman says. "Conversely, if parents relay a negative attitude about the difficulties of raising children, their offspring can be turned off parenting."
Ms Newman's research also revealed inconsistencies in a couple's expectations when it comes to juggling parenting and household responsibilities.
"Where both partners have worked before having children and shared household chores, after childbirth these women seem to have a greater expectation that men will also share the parenting duties. This isn't always happening and it creates a lot of conflict which in turn can mean the woman will want to avoid having further children. There seems to be less impact on future family size in relationships where both partners agree, either on traditional or shared roles."
Ms Newman said the people in her study who had experienced divorce and domestic violence as children also gave these experiences as reasons to intend to remain childless.
Painful birth experiences can also have a major impact on a couple's desire to have more children, with 25 per cent of interviewees claiming this as a contributory factor in restricting their family size.
In conjunction with her PhD research, Ms Newman has also written her first book, Better Birth: The Definitive Guide to Childbirth, released by New Holland Australia last month. The book, co-authored by Heather Hancock, is an information guide for pregnant women and a resource for midwives and other health professionals.
"The book helps counter the horror stories about giving birth because it relates some really positive experiences of childbirth and shows women what they can do to help improve birth experiences themselves. A lot of it is about negotiating the maternity system, not a failure of the woman's body," Ms Newman says.
Better Birth: The Definitive Guide to Childbirth is available at most bookshops throughout Australia, including all Dymocks and Big W stores.
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