Examining the psychosocial determinants of women's decisions to delay childbearing.Hum Reprod. 2016 08; 31(8):1776-87.HR
What are the psychosocial determinants of women's intentions to delay childbearing until after 35 years?
Attitudes, pressure from important others, perceived self-confidence and anticipated regret all influence the decision-making process of women aged 18-30 years to defer their attempts to conceive their first child until 35+ years.
WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY
Research has consistently demonstrated that, for many women, the decision to delay childbearing can lead to 'unintentional childlessness' due to a failure to consider the impact of age-related fertility decline. A large body of literature has also found strong links between age-related involuntary infertility and negative psychological impacts, including an increased prevalence of anxiety, depression, guilt, stigma and poor mental health.
STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION
The study initially conducted focus groups designed to ascertain important beliefs informing participants' intentions to delay childbearing. A subsequent larger-scale quantitative questionnaire followed.
PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS
Participants (n = 358) were female, aged between 18 and 30 years, lived in Australia, identified as being open to the idea of having children, were heterosexual, had not already had children, were not already pregnant, and had not received a diagnosis of medical infertility prior to participating.
MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE
Hierarchical multiple regression analyses showed strong support for psychosocial predictors of attitude, pressure from others and perceived self-confidence as predictors of women's intentions to delay childbearing, accounting for 59% of total variance. The extended model that included anticipated regret, accounted for a significant additional 4.4% variance in intention to delay childbearing past the age of 35 years.
LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION
Proportionally more participants were younger, Caucasian, and were university students, thus limiting the generalizability of results to the wider Australian community. Future research in this domain is recommended to adopt a prospective design and incorporate a measure of behaviour to investigate the link between intentions to delay childbearing and future fertility behaviour.
WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS
This research augments our understanding of the decision-making process and key beliefs underlying the decision to delay childbearing. Further efforts are needed to advise young women to investigate their fertility options during the peak of their reproductive years in order to prevent negative psychological consequences associated with unintentional childlessness.
STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTERESTS