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Arland Thornton photo

Determinants of Marriage and Childbearing Attitudes

a PSC Research Project

Investigators:   Arland Thornton, William Axinn, Jennifer S. Barber

This is a proposal for an extension of a MERIT Award for another five years (5R37 HD39425). This continuation project will study two central dimensions of life today: 1) marriage and the marital process, including cohabitation and nonresidential unions; and 2) childbearing, involving both the bearing and rearing of children. In addition, we examine family matters related to marriage and childbearing, including gender roles, family relations, and the courtship process. Although we begin from an interest in behavioral aspects of marriage, childbearing, and related family matters, this research centers on the systems of attitudes, values, beliefs, preferences, and social norms underlying and providing motivations for family life, marriage, cohabitation, childbearing, and childrearing. Whereas extensive research has been conducted concerning family, marriage, and childbearing behavior, relatively little work has been done on the ideational phenomena underlying and motivating these behaviors. Our research focuses both on values, attitudes, and beliefs concerning family, marriage, and childbearing and on attitudes, values, and beliefs concerning individual and societal development, the place of individuals within society, individual autonomy, and equality between individuals—matters that are closely connected to family, marriage, and childbearing. Our overall goal is to examine the forces influencing these attitudes, values, and beliefs. Our first goal is to examine how aspects of the parental family—including socioeconomic factors, the social organization of the parental family, parental religious affiliation and participation, and parental marital and childbearing experience—influence ideational phenomena of the children growing up in these parental families. The second aim of our analysis is explication of the ways in which parental attitudes, values, and beliefs influence children’s ideas. Our third goal examines the impact of children’s own experiences with school, work, marriage, and childbearing on their ideas about marriage, childbearing, and related matters. We will study these matters using data from both the United States and other countries in order to explicate causal forces influencing attitudes, values, and beliefs concerning family matters in the United States and the ways such causal factors in the United States compare to those in other countries. We plan to use data from the following sources: the National Survey of Children; the National Survey of Families and Households; the Intergenerational Panel Study of Parents and Children; the General Social Survey; Monitoring the Future; the International Social Science Project; the World Values Survey; and data previously collected by the investigators in other countries. We will estimate the effects of the various factors on attitudes, values, and beliefs using mulitivariate estimation techniques. An analysis of the influence of attitudes, values, and beliefs on family behavior can be found in the book by Arland Thornton, William Axinn, and Yu Xie entitled Marriage and Cohabitation.

Funding Period: 07/01/2006 to 03/31/2013

Project website: http://www.psc.isr.umich.edu/pubs/books/marriage_and_cohabitation/

Country of Focus: USA

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