Volume 43 - Article 23 | Pages 659–672  

Three facets of planning and postponement of parenthood in the Netherlands

By Renske Verweij, Melinda Mills, Harold Snieder, Gert Stulp


Background: The age at parenthood has risen by about five years in the last decades in the Netherlands. Previous studies typically focused on the age at which people have their first child, but little is known about desired timing of parenthood and how this desire changes.

Objective: In this study, we examined three facets of postponement: (1) desired age to have a first child, (2) changes in this desired age, and (3) whether the desires are met.

Methods: We use data from the Longitudinal Internet Studies for the Social Sciences (N = 2,296), which is a representative sample of men and women in the Netherlands who have been followed for up to ten years.

Results: Men and women desire to have children at relatively high ages, i.e., around age 30. About half of the respondents update these desires by increasing the desired age as they get older. Half of respondents do not become a parent at their desired time.

Conclusions: The high ages at first birth observed are due to a combination of the three facets of postponement.

Contribution: This study contributes to the literature by showing that the high observed age at which people have children nowadays is due to high desired ages, updating these desires upwards, and not achieving their desired timing.

Author's Affiliation

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