Examining the psychosocial determinants of women's decisions to delay childbearing

Kearney, Allison L. & White, Katherine M. (2016) Examining the psychosocial determinants of women's decisions to delay childbearing. Human Reproduction, 31(8), pp. 1776-1787.

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STUDY QUESTION What are the psychosocial determinants of women's intentions to delay childbearing until after 35 years?

SUMMARY ANSWER Attitudes, pressure from important others, perceived self-confidence and anticipated regret all influence the decision-making process of women aged 18–30 years to defer their attempts to conceive their first child until 35+ years.

WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY Research has consistently demonstrated that, for many women, the decision to delay childbearing can lead to ‘unintentional childlessness’ due to a failure to consider the impact of age-related fertility decline. A large body of literature has also found strong links between age-related involuntary infertility and negative psychological impacts, including an increased prevalence of anxiety, depression, guilt, stigma and poor mental health.

STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION The study initially conducted focus groups designed to ascertain important beliefs informing participants′ intentions to delay childbearing. A subsequent larger-scale quantitative questionnaire followed.

PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS Participants (n = 358) were female, aged between 18 and 30 years, lived in Australia, identified as being open to the idea of having children, were heterosexual, had not already had children, were not already pregnant, and had not received a diagnosis of medical infertility prior to participating.

MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE Hierarchical multiple regression analyses showed strong support for psychosocial predictors of attitude, pressure from others and perceived self-confidence as predictors of women's intentions to delay childbearing, accounting for 59% of total variance. The extended model that included anticipated regret, accounted for a significant additional 4.4% variance in intention to delay childbearing past the age of 35 years.

LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION Proportionally more participants were younger, Caucasian, and were university students, thus limiting the generalizability of results to the wider Australian community. Future research in this domain is recommended to adopt a prospective design and incorporate a measure of behaviour to investigate the link between intentions to delay childbearing and future fertility behaviour.

WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS This research augments our understanding of the decision-making process and key beliefs underlying the decision to delay childbearing. Further efforts are needed to advise young women to investigate their fertility options during the peak of their reproductive years in order to prevent negative psychological consequences associated with unintentional childlessness.


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ID Code: 98032
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: involuntary childlessness, psychosocial determinants, delayed childbearing, young women
DOI: 10.1093/humrep/dew124
ISSN: 1460-2350
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Current > Schools > School of Psychology & Counselling
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2016 The Author
Copyright Statement: This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Human Reproduction following peer review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version Hum. Reprod. (2016) 31 (8): 1776-1787 is available online at: https://doi.org/10.1093/humrep/dew124
Deposited On: 14 Aug 2016 23:54
Last Modified: 23 Aug 2016 18:28

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