Journal Article

The prospective power of personality on childbearing: a longitudinal study based on data from Germany

Genus, 79:6, 1–40 (2023)
Open Access


The link between personality and fertility is relatively underexplored. Moreover, there are only a few studies focusing on the prospective association between personality and childbearing. However, none of these studies considered the Five-Factor Model (FFM), which is the most widely accepted measurement of personality. The present study fills this gap by examining the prospective association between the FFM and the hazard ratio of the first and the second childbirth in Germany. Analyses are based on recent data (2005–2017) from the Socio-economic Panel Study. Cox proportional hazard models are applied. Findings demonstrate that personality traits are associated with fertility. Extraversion is positively linked with the first childbirth, but is negatively associated with the second childbirth. These findings are mainly driven by males. Agreeableness is positively linked with the first childbirth across the total sample. Again, this correlation is mainly based on the findings for men, among whom a positive association between agreeableness and the second childbirth is also found. Among women, personality does not seem to be linked with the first childbirth. However, the risk of having a second child is found to be negatively associated with conscientiousness. My study adds to the current understanding of the personality–fertility association by exploring the impact of personality trait scores from the FFM on subsequent fertility behavior. However, further research is needed on the association between personality and childbearing; on the mechanisms through which personality affects fertility; and on how these links differ across cultures, among higher parities, and for births after re-partnering.

Keywords: Germany, fertility, proportional hazard models, psychological factors
The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.