Running against the clock (RAC)?


Realising family plans over the life-course

Countries in Europe and around the world have witnessed a major family transformation in the past decades: Previously marginal forms of family structure such as stepfamilies and families with unmarried parents have become more common. In parallel, birth rates have fallen far below the replacement level of two children in many countries. In this context, the need to diagnose the mechanisms behind the very low fertility levels arises. Fertility intentions and the family context in which they are formed are an important key for understanding family formation. We propose to identify the factors that drive family – and especially fertility – decisions in Austria. Particularly, we contrast fertility intentions with their realisation, focusing on couple characteristics, contraceptive use and partnership context.

The main research aim of the project is to investigate the influence of life course circumstances on the realisation of individuals’ fertility plans. In our framework, 1/ characteristics of the couple, 2/ contraceptive use and fecundity impairments and 3/ partnership status and changes in the life course are the three main dimensions that mediate the realisation of individual’s life-time and short-term fertility intentions. The third dimension allows the application of the framework to unpartnered persons and highlights the importance of having a partner for being able to conceive a child. Moreover, it enables us to study fertility intentions and their realisation in parallel with changes in one’s partnership situation. Taking a life course approach in fertility intentions studies is extremely relevant. Several studies have revealed that competing intentions in other life domains influence the realisation of short-term fertility intentions.

Research within RAC