A qualitative study on gender attitudes, fertility intentions and the suffering child

Ester L. Rizzi, Université Catholique de Louvain
Caroline Demlenne, Université Catholique de Louvain

Since 70s a trend toward a more egalitarian division of labour has been registered. A similar trend have been also observed in gender attitudes, that became more egalitarian. Despite these progress, some authors observe that a few changes have occurred after the mid-1990. These same authors posit the emergence of a “new cultural frame”: egalitarian principles had been interiorized, but prioritization of children makes couples to choose a non-egalitarian framework in the division of domestic labour and to express caution toward egalitarian statements. Our first aim is to explore at the individual level the existence of an “egalitarian essentialism” together with a prioritization of children through a qualitative analysis of 16 in-depth interviews with men and women of 8 couples. Interviewees are asked to express their agreement with several statements - the same employed in social surveys in order to measure gender attitudes. The preliminary results obtained with our qualitative approach show that the disagreement with some statements that are supposed to measure gender attitudes actually expresses the prioritization of children. Particularly, women with a greater attachment to work and feeling of professional fulfilment are more aware of consequences of their double role on children. The ambiguity of gender attitudes statements can also explain why previous studies present contradictory results as to the association between gender attitudes and fertility. Hence, the second aim of our study is to describe through narratives of in-depth interviews the complex relationship between gender attitudes and fertility intentions of men and women.

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Presented in Session 109: Gender assumptions, policy design and demographic outcomes: focus on fertility