The Social Conditions that Influence Family Planning
Health professionals and researchers often study what goes into a couple’s decision to have (or not have) children. But a new study suggests that it’s time to look further than pregnancy intentions to understand why individuals sometimes become parents sooner than they imagined.
The study, published in the Journal of Family Studies, was conducted by Professors Meredith Manze and Diana Romero, along with Ph.D. student Dana Watnick (all of CUNY’s Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy), and Catherine Besthoff of Mount Sinai West in New York City.
The researchers interviewed 60 men and women ages 18-35 who either had children or were pregnant. Rather than relying on an intended-unintended pregnancy framework, the researchers asked participants to describe their ideal life set-up before starting a family.
“Almost universally, participants shared ideal criteria: to graduate, gain financial stability, establish a relationship, and then become pregnant,” the authors wrote.
But many of the interviewees “did not accomplish these goals” before becoming parents. When researchers investigated, they found that those who didn’t meet their goals had endured traumatic childhoods and had economic concerns. And although having children resulted in positive personal changes, they were still unable to gain financial stability.
Their results, the researchers said, point to the need for structural and social-level supports like quality jobs, adequate government benefits, and safe, affordable housing.
“Using this framework, and examining who can and cannot meet their personal criteria before childbearing as well as the social contexts in which they live, can help health professionals and researchers better understand what structural and social changes are needed in order to help people have children under their own ideal conditions.”