Childlessness: values or constraints? Towards a new way of life in Switzerland?

Claudine E. M. Sauvain-Dugerdil, Université de Genève

This paper is considering whether childlessness is becoming a new way of life in Switzerland, a country in which the percent of childless persons has been since long among the highest in Europe. We use the data of the 2013 Swiss family survey to compare views on parental lives of person with or without experience of fertility, such as expressed in their perception of the anticipated consequences of the arrival of a (another) child and of the factors that would play a role in their decision to have or not a (another) child. Globally, the arrival of a (another) child is seen as having negative material consequences and positive relational ones. Preliminary results comparing women and men with or without fertility experience show that women and men with no experience of fertility give less importance to constraints related to age and health, as well as to the share of domestic tasks. Their anticipation of negative consequences on their sexual life is also less pronounced. Most of all, childless women and men anticipate to a higher degree a positive impact on their relationship with their surroundings and their life satisfaction. However, childless women differ from childless men inasmuch as the latter are less prone to giving importance to material factors, while childless women appear more preoccupied by material security. Therefore, we cannot conclude on these preliminary results that persons with no child have a radically different view of family life than those who are already parents. They seem to be no more ambivalent about planning for a child and appear to have a positive view of parental life, anticipating less material burden and more relational benefits. The analysis will be completed by controlling for the possible effect of differences in values, as well as in personal and family resources.

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Presented in Session 51: European fertility