On the Structural Value of Children: The Birth of a Child as a Means to Improve the Social Environment of Its Parents – Theory and Empirical Evidence from Bulgaria

Christoph Buehler, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research

Personal networks receive increasing recognition as structural determinants of reproductive behavior. However, the network approach can also be utilized to explain personal motivations for having children. By using theories of interpersonal exchange and the value of children it is agued that children alter their parents’ social networks thereby improving their parents’ living situation and their access to supportive resources. Individuals perceive this potential improvement as a structural benefit and therefore consider this value in their fertility-related decisions. Data from Bulgaria, collected in 2002, support this argument. For married or cohabiting women, the birth of a first child is significantly motivated by expectations of improving family relationships, and male intentions for a second child are promoted by an expected increase of security in old age. Females and males with an intimate friend, however, associate a first child with the expectation of increasing closeness with their partner.

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Presented in Session 32: The Effect of Social Structure on Fertility-Related Behavior