Authors Roberts E, Metcalfe A, Jack M, Tough SC.
Review Date May 2011
Citation Human Reproduction 2011;26(5):1202-1208
The role of men in the childbearing decision process and the factors that influence men’s childbearing intentions have been relatively unexplored in the literature despite many studies focussing on women. The role of paternal age in fertility or adverse pregnancy outcomes has also received little attention although there is some evidence that men over the age of 35 are less fertile than men under 25 and some associations between advanced paternal age and adverse birth outcomes have been reported. Given the increasing parental age in many developed countries in recent years, and the fact that both maternal and paternal factors contribute to the timing of childbearing, a greater understanding of the factors influencing childbearing intentions of men is important.
To describe the factors which strongly influence the childbearing intentions of men and to describe differences in these factors according to age group.
A telephone survey (response rate 84%) was conducted with 495 men between the ages of 20 and 45 living in an urban setting who, at the time of contact, did not have biological children. Men were asked about what factors strongly influence their intention to have children. Univariable and multivariable logistic regressions were conducted to determine if these factors were significantly associated with age.
The mean age of the sample was 30 years and 32% had a partner at the time of the study. Only 6% were trying for a pregnancy at the time of the interview. Of those sampled, 86% of men reported that at some point in the future they planned to become a parent. More than half (52%) of the sample thought that under 30 years was the ideal age to begin parenting. The factors that men considered to be most influential in their childbearing intentions were: the need to be financially secure, their partner’s interest/desire to have children, their partner’s suitability to be a parent and their personal interest/desire to have children.
Men who were 35-45 years old had lower odds of stating that financial security (crude OR: 0.32, 95% CI: 0.18-0.54) and partner’s interest in having children (crude OR: 0.57, 95% CI: 0.33-0.99) were very influential, but had higher odds of stating that their biological clock (crude OR: 4.37, 95% CI: 1.78-10.76) was very influential in their childbearing intentions than men in the 20-24 year age group.
The factors that influence men’s intentions about when to become a parent may change with age. Understanding what influences men to have children, and what they understand about reproductive health is important for education, program and policy development.
Points to Note
- The data reported here may not be generalisable to men outside the urban setting where this study was conducted. Also, there was no information on non-respondents so the representativeness of the sample cannot be ascertained.
- It should be kept in mind that this is a study of intentions, not actions, and actual parenting behaviour may not follow these stated intentions.
- Although men felt the ideal age for childbearing was under 30 years, the desire to have financial stability before having children may mean delaying childbearing and statistics show both maternal and paternal age has been increasing in developed, particularly urban populations.
- Other studies suggest that men may not be very aware of the impacts that delayed childbearing can have on fertility and adverse birth outcomes.
- Education of both men and woman on the possible effects of delaying childbearing could help with couples making informed decisions about when to have children.