Volume 40 - Article 1 | Pages 1–26  

Running out of time? Understanding the consequences of the biological clock for the dynamics of fertility intentions and union formation

By Michael Wagner, Johannes Huinink, Aart C. Liefbroer


Background: A considerable proportion of childless women in their late thirties or early forties would still like to have children. The number of men and women whose fertility intentions are potentially influenced by the so-called biological clock for childbearing and who remain involuntarily childless is increasing.

Objective: We analyze the short-term dynamics of fertility intentions and partner search among childless, non-partnered men and women aged 35–37. By comparing people in this age group to younger men and women, we investigate whether and how their awareness of the biological clock for childbearing affects their childbearing intentions.

Methods: The data stems from the first two waves of the German Panel Analysis of Intimate Relationships and Family Dynamics (pairfam) survey. We selected male and female respondents aged 25–27 (n = 1,073) and 35–37 (n = 369) in Wave 1.

Results: Our analyses reveal that fertility intentions are more polarized among men and women aged 35–37 than among their 25–27-year-old counterparts, and are more polarized among women than among men. Finding a partner is shown to positively affect fertility intentions. Our results suggest that people who intensify their fertility intentions are not necessarily successful in finding a partner, which can be seen as a major prerequisite for family formation.

Contribution: This is one of the first studies to investigate the fertility intentions of childless men and women whose biological clock is running out. It provides an instructive example for a longitudinal study of the dynamics of life-course-related intentions.

Author's Affiliation

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

Religion and union dissolution: Effects of couple and municipal religiosity on divorce and separation
Volume 49 - Article 20

Parental socioeconomic status and the timing of first marriage: What is the role of unmarried cohabitation? Results from a cross-national comparison
Volume 45 - Article 15

LAT relationships: A new living arrangement among the oldest old population in Germany?
Volume 44 - Article 14

Introduction to the special collection on spatial mobility, family dynamics, and gender relations
Volume 41 - Article 21

Generations and Gender Programme Wave 1 data collection: An overview and assessment of sampling and fieldwork methods, weighting procedures, and cross-sectional representativeness
Volume 34 - Article 18

Explaining fertility: The potential for integrative approaches: Introduction to the Special Collection "Theoretical Foundations of the Analysis of Fertility"
Volume 33 - Article 4

Why do intimate partners live apart? Evidence on LAT relationships across Europe
Volume 32 - Article 8

Income pooling strategies among cohabiting and married couples: A comparative perspective
Volume 30 - Article 55

A life-course approach to fertility
Volume 30 - Article 45

European views of divorce among parents of young children: Understanding cross-national variation
Volume 27 - Article 2

On the links between employment, partnership quality, and the desire to have a first child: The case of West Germany
Volume 24 - Article 24

Timing of first union among second-generation Turks in Europe: The role of parents, peers and institutional context
Volume 22 - Article 16

Trends in living arrangements in Europe: Convergence or divergence?
Volume 19 - Article 36

A comparative analysis of leaving home in the United States, the Netherlands and West Germany
Volume 7 - Article 17

Most recent similar articles in Demographic Research

Marital plans and partnership transitions among German opposite-sex couples: Couple agreement and gender differences
Volume 49 - Article 39    | Keywords: gender roles, German Family Panel pairfam (Panel Analysis of Intimate Relationships and Family Dynamics), marital intentions, relationship dissolution, transition to marriage

The COVID-19 pandemic and fertility responses: TFR simulation analysis using parity progressions in South Korea
Volume 49 - Article 32    | Keywords: COVID-19, fertility intentions, marriage intentions, simulation

Delayed first births and completed fertility across the 1940–1969 birth cohorts
Volume 48 - Article 15    | Keywords: age at first birth, childlessness, completed cohort fertility, decomposition, fertility postponement, fertility recuperation, low-fertility

Union formation and fertility amongst immigrants from Pakistan and their descendants in the United Kingdom: A multichannel sequence analysis
Volume 48 - Article 10    | Keywords: assimilation, fertility, life course, migrants, sequence analysis, union formation, United Kingdom

The association between childlessness and voting turnout in 38 countries
Volume 47 - Article 14    | Keywords: childlessness, democracy, low fertility, voting turnout