Childbearing age norms in Europe in times of fertility postponement

Activity: Talks and presentationsTalk or oral contributionScience to Science


Age norms play a key role in guiding a broad range of demographic choices, including childbearing behaviours. Hence, they are an important part of the understanding of current fertility patterns. While there is a vast body of literature examining age norms for childbearing at one point in time, to date, not much attention has been devoted to their temporal variation. This paper investigates changes in age-normative frameworks for the childbearing of men and women and their relation to actual fertility behaviours in 21 European countries, using data from two rounds of the European Social Survey (ESS-3 and ESS-9). Using decomposition analysis techniques, we also explore to what extent the change in age norms is explained by compositional changes in population characteristics (education, employment, relationship status, childbearing timing and religiosity) or by the large diffusion of norms in favour of late fertility behaviours. Our preliminary findings show that norms have become more favourable to late parenthood, with most of the shift driven by the broad diffusion of attitudes favouring later fertility behaviours. Moreover, a weak association was found between macro-level indicators of the change in age-norms and observed postponement trends. The “perceived reproductive window”, which we defined as the ages of life at which people are feeling most comfortable and legitimate in forming a family, has neither widened nor shrunk over time, but it has shifted to older ages. This shows that, in times of fertility postponement, European social contexts have become more favourable to the later timing of childbearing.
Period7 Sep 2022
Event titleBSPS annual conference 2022
Event typeConference
LocationWinchester, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • fertility
  • reproductive norms