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BiB Working Paper on "Childlessness and Large Families" (K&K)

Date 28 Apr 2015

The BiB Research Project Childlessness and Large Families (Kinderlosigkeit und Kinderreichtum: K&K) has published four new working papers which outline the theoretical basis of the project.

Martin Bujard and Detlev Lück present the current state of research in the fields of childlessness and large families. Jürgen Dorbritz, Ralina Panova and Jasmin Passet-Wittig present the research area of childlessness, whereas Detlev Lück, Manfred Scharein, Linda Lux, Kai Dreschmitt and Jürgen Dorbritz focus on large families. Finally, Kai Dreschmitt and Robert Naderi examine the quality of datasets available in the two fields.

Content of the Papers:

BiB Working Paper 1/2015:
Martin Bujard and Detlev Lück: Childlessness and Large Families: Two Phenomena and Their Different Theoretical Explainations

In their paper, Martin Bujard and Detlev Lück point out that the decline of birth rates in low fertility countries such as Germany is driven by two demographic phenomena: (1) the decrease of large families and (2) the increase of childlessness. Both phenomena play different roles at different historical stages, and there are different causes for each of the two. Therefore, the aim of the K&K-Project is to describe and to explain in a differentiated manner the phenomena of childlessness and large families. Current theories for their causes contain gaps due to a lack of explanation as to which demographic phenomenon the theories are based on. In this paper, the authors develop the theoretical foundations for understanding childlessness as well as the transition to having a third child. Furthermore, the authors distil arguments and conceptualise an analytical framework that combines macro, meso and micro levels with the perspectives of couples and life course. Bujard and Lück come to the conclusion that the decline of large families is mainly caused by cultural factors. The pervasiveness of the normative model of the two-child family, as well as the low social recognition of large families, lead to the overall decrease in families with three or more children. Childlessness, on the other hand, is most frequent when common postmodern factors meet insufficient changes in society and on the labour market. Frequently, this causes the first child to be born later in a mother’s life, as well as an overall increase in opportunity costs for raising a child in the first place.

Bujard, Martin; Lück, Detlev (2015): Kinderlosigkeit und Kinderreichtum: Zwei Phänomene und ihre unterschiedlichen theoretischen Erklärungen. BiB Working Paper 1/2015. Wiesbaden: Bundesinstitut für Bevölkerungsforschung


BiB Working Paper 2/2015:
Jürgen Dorbritz, Ralina Panova and Jasmin Passet-Wittig: Intentional or Unintenional? The State of Research on Childlessness

Childlessness has become a pervasive phenomenon in Germany, most notably in Western Germany. Therefore, it is necessary to examine the issue’s causes and consequences. This paper gives an overview of the current state of research, including definitions of childlessness, an assessment of available data and results of present-day research. The paper also lists research gaps and questions for further research – for example concerning men and childlessness, the paths to childlessness, unintentional childlessness and reproductive medicine as well as the linkage of partnership formation and childlessness. The paper also discusses differences between Eastern and Western Germany, the international context and the relationship of childlessness to education, living arrangements, employment situation and ethnic background. As current research often distinguishes between intentional and unintentional childlessness, it is important to view the phenomenon from a life course perspective.

Dorbritz, Jürgen; Panova, Ralina; Passet-Wittig, Jasmin (2015): Gewollt oder ungewollt? Der Forschungsstand zu Kinderlosigkeit. BiB Working Paper 2/2015. Wiesbaden: Bundesinstitut für Bevölkerungsforschung


BiB Working Paper 3/2015:
Detlev Lück, Manfred Scharein, Linda Lux, Kai Dreschmitt and Jürgen Dorbritz: Only if All Preconditions Are Fulfilled: The State of Research on Large Families

In the 20th century, large families – defined as the biological parenthood of three or more children – increasingly became the exception and have been further declining in numbers in recent years. Which findings exist on the distribution of large families among different parts of society? What is known about the determinants and mechanisms that increase (or decrease) the probability that parents will bear many children? The paper focuses on these questions and gives an overview of current research on the topic. The authors emphasize sociodemographic determinants of large families, such as education, employment, income and living arrangements. Furthermore, the family of origin and the number of siblings typically acts as a model for when the individual starts his or her own family. A main factor for a large family is a relatively short time span between finding a partner and the birth of the first and the second child. The paper also examines research gaps, for example the question of which characteristics of large families can be seen as the causes, and which can be seen as the consequences of a large family. The paper also points out that there is an insufficient distinction between large families as outlined here and large families in the sense of a household containing many children (which are not necessarily one’s own).

Lück, Detlev, Scharein, Manfred; Lux, Linda; Dreschmitt, Kai; Dorbritz, Jürgen (2015): Nur wenn alle Voraussetzungen passen. Der Forschungsstand zu Kinderreichtum. BiB Working Paper 3/2015. Wiesbaden: Bundesinstitut für Bevölkerungsforschung


BiB Working Paper 4/2015:
Kai Dreschmitt and Robert Naderi: Data in Social Sciences for the Research on Childlessness and Large Families

The paper examines the current range of data in social science regarding the phenomena of childlessness and large families, and outlines which limitations these data contain. A number of sources are presented, such as the Panel Analysis of Intimate Relationships and Family Dynamics (PAIRFAM), the Job Mobilities and Family lives in Europe study (JobMob), the Sozio-oekonomisches Panel (SOEP) and the Eurobarometer. Several aspects of these and other studies are analysed, such as the age group, the sample size and the breadth of available variables. The main aim of the paper is to determine to which degree the data sets can be used to answer the questions raised by the K&K-Project and on childlessness and large families in general. The authors come to the conclusion that while the examined datasets can be used to cover some of these questions, no one set fulfills all desired criteria.

Dreschmitt, Kai; Naderi, Robert (2015): Sozialwissenschaftliche Daten zur Erforschung von Kinderlosigkeit und Kinderreichtum. BiB Working Paper 4/2015. Wiesbaden: Bundesinstitut für Bevölkerungsforschung

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