Volume 39 - Article 9 | Pages 285–314  

Parents’ subjective well-being after their first child and declining fertility expectations

By Francesca Luppi, Letizia Mencarini


Background: Recent studies have suggested a decline in subjective well-being after the birth of a first child. Yet parents' subjective well-being is, in general, linked positively to wanting and to having additional children.

Objective: The paper addresses the question of whether new parents' satisfaction with their overall life and several specific life spheres modifies their expectations about having a second, or further, child.

Methods: Relying on twelve waves of the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia panel survey (2001–2012), we apply piecewise growth models to a sample of individuals in couples who experience parenthood for the first time. We model, separately by gender, the relationship between satisfaction in seventeen life domains, overall life satisfaction, and fertility expectations during the first three years following the birth of a first child.

Results: Results suggest that a decline in new parents' life satisfaction, overall and in different life domains, is associated with a significant decline in fertility expectations. The most important domains are family, social relationship, and work, although with differences by gender. In fact, mothers' fertility expectations are positively associated with their satisfaction with career prospects and with their work–family balance, whereas, for fathers, fertility expectations are positively associated with their financial situation.

Contribution: Our study provides strong evidence that several life domains – and new parents' changes in satisfaction with regard to them – are important in elucidating the mechanism linking fertility expectations and the first child.

Author's Affiliation

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