Journal Article

Channels of social influence on reproduction

Bernardi, L.
Population Research and Policy Review, 22:5-6, 527–555 (2003)


The article investigates the different types of social mechanisms responsible for the interdependence of couples’ reproductive preferences predicted by diffusion models of fertility and famiy behavior. We analyse the transcripts of in-depth interviews carried out with 54 women in the northern part of Italy. The rich information on observations and conversations about fertility and family choices with relatives and peers enables us to distinguish four different ways in which social interaction influences reproductive preferences, namely social learning, social pressure, subjective obligation and contagion. Second, we show how the efficacy of each mechanism affecting fertility behavior depends on the kind and the structure of personal relationships involved in the interaction. Finally, we discuss the ways in which individual attitudes and values associated to the transition to parenthood are produced and negotiated in face to face interactions, and the importance of focusing on the process of preference-formation and modification for understanding fertility behavior. (Low fertility, transition to parenthood, qualitative methods, social interaction)
Keywords: Italy, fertility, social norms, value system
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