The influence of partner involvement in fatherhood and domestic tasks on mothers' fertility expectations in Italy.
Keywords: fertility expectations, fathers' collaboration, gender roles, women's work, Italy, lowest low fertility
Italy has been for many years a country with one of the lowest total fertility levels in the world, which was 1.32 children per woman in 2005 (ISTAT, 2007). From a demographic point of view, the lowest-low Italian fertility level is the result of the low proportion of women and men marrying or cohabiting, the postponement of marriage or the start of cohabitation, and lastly the proportion of women that interrupt their reproductive careers after the first or, at the most, the second child (Kohler, Billari, & Ortega, 2002; Livi Bacci, 2001).
This study focused on those women who had a first or a second child and on the factors encouraging or discouraging their intention of having other children in the future. In particular, we were interested in assessing the influence of fathers' participation in childcare and household activities, according to the woman's working status and controlling for her demographic and socio-economic characteristics and the formal and informal support she received after the birth of the last child.
Fertility Intentions and Fertility: Between Choices and Constraints
The study dealt exclusively with mothers' intentions of having another child. According to Hakim (2003, p. 369), "when women control their own fertility, it is their preference and values that shape responses to public policies." However, we believe that fathers' wishes and the couple decision-making process leading to the joint fertility outcome influence mothers' preferences. A thorough review of studies dealing with this issue is provided by Thomson, McDonald, and Bumpass (1990). In other words, the intentions women expressed at the time of their interviews were influenced by previous daily interactions, shared experiences, and negotiations between partners, which are inclusive of men's wishes (Miller & Pasta, 1995; Morgan, 1985; Thomson, 1990). The choice of relying on fertility intentions to contribute to an understanding of Italian lowest-low actual fertility may be arguable from a statistical perspective as it has been widely demonstrated that the distributions of intentions versus births often differ. The desired number of children concentrates around the modal value of two children while actual fertility is much more variable. In fact, actual performances depend on fecundity, social and economic conditions, quality of family life and couple's relationship, family life stage, and competition with other's individual goals, among other factors (Bongaarts, 2001; Girard & Roussel, 1982; Morgan, 2001; Westoff, Mishler, & Kelly, 1957).
Particularly in highly contraceptive societies, a widespread presumption is that attitudes towards family size may determine fertility outcomes or at least provide some assistance in understanding the wanted or planned component of actual fertility and its determinants (Hakim, 1995, 1998, 2003; Hendershot & Placek, 1981; Miller, 1994; Schoen, Aston, Kim, & Nathanson, 1999; Van Hoorn & Keilman, 1997). Although actual values are often lower than the desired number of children (Monnier, 1989; Toulemon, 2003), a correspondence between the trends and determinants of the two values has been demonstrated (Thomson, 1997; Westoff & Ryder, 1977). Observed levels of fertility are not a random quantity but they are an expression of reproductive intentions and of the events that hinder, slow down, or promote their implementation (Ciucci, 1999; Quesnel-Vallee & Morgan, 2004; Schoen et al.).
Therefore, the study of fertility intentions gains even more significance, as it may provide useful insights not only on preferences, but also on constraints. Indeed, preferences and desires do not map automatically into behaviour (Ginn et al., 1996; Rogers, 2002). External and personal events affect preferences both in terms of the number of children to have and by the stage of life in which to have them (Menniti, 2001).
Our study focused on the factors affecting fertility intentions, as a first step towards a thorough understanding of actual fertility behaviours. Only follow-up studies of the realization of women's fertility intentions can complete our understanding but in the meantime, results drawn from similar studies will help us to draw a coherent picture of fertility intentions and of the constraints that affect women's preferences and desires. Lastly, we agree with Hakim (2003) about the political relevance of fertility intentions, that is, knowledge of factors that have an impact on the intentions to have children may allow a precocious political intervention to favour future fertility.
Fertility, Gender System and Support Networks
Among the possible factors, our research focused on assessing the influence of the partner's involvement in fatherhood and domestic tasks, as we expected that greater involvement positively affects fertility intentions. We also took into account whether the woman received some form of help for domestic and care tasks--either paid, from institutions, or from an informal network--that, if substantial, could make the partner's help unnecessary.
At the macro level among developed countries, fertility is higher in countries where the gender system is more equitable; women have more human capital, power, and autonomy; and institutional support exists for the reconciliation of work and motherhood (Crouch, 1999; Pinnelli, 1999; Pinnelli & Di Giulio, 2003). Becker (1964) provides an exhaustive explanation of the concept of human capital and its influence on fertility. At the micro level, women's emancipation has a cost in terms of lower fertility in countries where institutional support is weak, while it has no negative consequences, at least up to the second child, in countries where both the labour market practices (e.g., allowing flexi-time or other work schedule options) and the policies for the family (e.g., paid leaves, family allowances, nurseries, and kindergartens) support the couples in childcare (Pinnelli, 2001). Thus, the transformation of women's status is not itself a cause of the lowest-low fertility, but it becomes problematic when not accompanied by an increase in institutional support to the family and by a fairer sharing of tasks between partners (Mc Donald, 2000). When institutional support and fairer sharing exist, the supportive role played by the informal network gains relevance, and thus the fact of being surrounded by a network of informal help may favour fertility (Buhler & Fratczak, 2004, 2005; Philipov & Shkolnikov, 2001; Philipov, Speder, & Billari, 2005).
Gender equity is often less problematic within society when considering education, work, and power dimensions than it is within the family. Also, gender equity is less problematic in those countries universally considered forerunners in shaping a gender fair society. We stress equity, which is the absence of discrimination, and not equality, which is the absence of differences. According to the biosocial behavioural perspective, the gender division of roles is in part biologically grounded but some variability exists within each gender. Thus, even if the differences in socialization and in opportunities between the two sexes were removed, we should still expect some gender differences (Rossi, 1987; Udry, 1994). But the existence of different socialization experiences and opportunity structures result in women and men playing different roles well beyond their own preferences. As a matter of fact, despite some progress toward reduced gender differences (Bianchi, Milkie, Sayer, & Robinson, 2000), the burden of domestic and care tasks still falls disproportionately on women's shoulders (Coltrane, 2000; Rosina & Sabbadini, 2005). Even when involved in paid work, women have to adapt their time to family exigencies.
Despite the emergence of a new model of fatherhood, which stresses more involvement in the care of the children, we are still very far from a fair and equitable division of family tasks (Bernhardt, 2001; Craig, 2006; Gershuny & Robinson, 1988; Sanchez & Thomson, 1997; Singley, 2005). Many scholars consider the father's collaboration very important to alleviating the costs of social reproduction for women and to avoiding excessive limits on the number of children borne (Folbre, 1994, 1997; Matthews, 1999; McDonald, 1997). Measures such as parental leave, which favour fathers' involvement and participation in household tasks and in the care of the children, are considered an important part of developing a new family equilibrium based on results of previous research. If the male partner takes parental leave, there is a positive effect on the probability of having a second child (Olah, 2003; Ronsen, 2004). The division of tasks between partners is more equitable when the woman is employed (Chafetz, 1995; Grillo & Pinnelli, 1999; Maffioli 8,: Sabbadini, 1999; Oppeneimer, 1994). Lastly, the father's involvement in household tasks and in the care of children positively affects women's propensity to have a second child (Matthews, 1999; McDonald, 2000; Torr & Short, 2004). Therefore, improving gender equity within the family may be a strategic action that favours the realization of fertility intentions and thus moving the fertility level higher and closer to the replacement level.
The Italian Case
Within this framework, the analysis of the Italian situation is of great interest. Italy has experienced a continuous and comparatively pronounced decline of the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) since the middle of the nineteen sixties. Italy's TFR reached and sustained the lowest level in Europe during the last three decades (Kohler, Billari, & Ortega, 2002; Billari & Kohler, 2002). Italy also witnessed profound and rapid changes that markedly affected women's lives (e.g., the diffusion of mass education, the increase in the female labour force participation, the introduction of divorce) without adequate societal adjustment either at the macro or at the couple level.
In fact, welfare state policies have always relied heavily on the male breadwinner model or women in families being the primary providers of welfare (Esping-Andersen, 1990, 1999; Ferrera, 1996). The Italian state supplies only a very limited set of social care services (Anttonen & Sipila, 1996). Publicly funded childcare provision for children up to age 4, for instance, currently covers less than 10% of children that age (OECD, 2001a, 2001b). As argued by several scholars, macro policies provide structure to the gender relations in the family and in the society, supporting the position of the male breadwinner and promoting a gendered division of employment and family care (Fraser, 1997; Lewis, 1992; Sainsbury, 1994, 1999). Also, weak state intervention to regulate labour markets and to support employed mothers played a role in maintaining gendered differences. Despite the remarkable increase observed in the last decades, female employment rates in Italy (45.3%) are still below the European average (56.3% for the European Union of 25 nations) as of 2005 (Eurostat, 2007). Recent national surveys found that the daily time allocation of women and men widely differ as to amount of hours devoted to domestic and extra-domestic work (ISTAT 1994, 2005; Rosina & Sabbadini, 2005). These differences widen when there are children, as fathers tend to work longer hours on their jobs and mothers spend more time with household tasks and care activities, regardless of their involvement in the labour market. It is thus left to the informal network, consisting mostly of grandparents, to be the main source of domestic help and to compensate for the limited support from the welfare state (Pinnelli, 2001).
The influence of partner support on Italian women's fertility has been studied by few scholars and mainly with reference to actual fertility. The findings of a survey carried out in five large Italian cities revealed that couples in which both parents worked were more likely to have a second child when male partners were more involved in taking care of the first child (Mencarini & Tanturri, 2004). Conversely it was not relevant whether the partner participated in domestic tasks or not. However, having a third child was less likely to happen when the partner contributed less to domestic tasks after the birth of the second child. A study based on the European Community Household Panel found that partners' collaboration in childcare slightly increased the probability of having the second child only for the younger cohorts of working women (Cooke, 2003). An analysis of data from another longitudinal survey-ILFI, Indagine Longitudinale sulle Famiglie Italiane (Longitudinal Survey on Italian Households) resulted in similar findings (Fiori, 2006). Fiori's study also considered the childcare help received from formal and informal networks for the first child. Fathers were included in the latter category. Receiving help had a positive influence on the probability of having a second child only for employed women. These findings suggest that a father's participation in childcare and domestic tasks may affect fertility. But the validity of this relationship has been tested only under particular circumstances, focusing on limited types of help and woman's occupational status.
Our study's hypothesis was that greater help from a partner will have a positive influence on expected fertility. Our aim was to increase understanding of this relationship, both from a methodological and a theoretical point of view. Our research has several strong points. First, it relies on very large data set from a very broad sample of both working and non-working women. These women are statistically representative of Italian women in their reproductive years who gave birth in the years 2000 and 2001. The questions from which the data were derived explicitly focused on the context surrounding mothers at the time they gave birth, thus including, among other things, very detailed information on partners' commitment to fatherhood. Second, from a methodological point of view this work aims to use all the available information, but at the same time avoid the risk of collinearity among variables. In order to avoid this risk, several dimensions related to the quantity and quality of fathers' involvement were based on synthesised sets of variables. Appropriate statistical tools were used to create new and uncorrelated variables.
Data and Method
Our sample was drawn from respondents to the Survey on Births carried out by Italian National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT) in 2002 (ISTAT, 2006). Their sample consisted of around 50,000 mothers who had a child from 18 to 21 months before the interview. For our analysis we drew from the subsample of 16,789 women who had completed the long form of the survey. On this form the questions asked for a good deal of information related to mothers' working arrangements before and after birth and their ways of reconciling work and care activities (cf., Prati, Lo Conte, & Talucci 2006). Also details were asked about the role of partners and the gender-system including partners' participation in household tasks, contributions to the care of children, fathers' attendance at delivery, and fathers taking paid parental leave and paid leave when the child was sick. Finally, details were gathered on the existence of family support networks, including economic help from family members or assistance in the care of children, and of institutional support including attendance at nursery schools. The survey gathered data that allowed us to control for main socio-demographic and economic characteristics of the woman and her partner-such as age, educational level, and occupational status, as well as for problems related to pregnancy, delivery, and health of the new-born.
Our sample was restricted only to women who had given birth to a first or a second child. Excluded within this group from our sample were women who had had a twin birth, who were pregnant at the time of the interview, who did not have a cohabiting partner, and who had cohabiting children (adoptive or step-children) other than the first (or the first two) natural children. We further restricted the analysis only to those women who were working when their pregnancy started and were back to work at the time of the interview (working women) and to those women who were neither working when their pregnancy started nor at the time of interview (non-working women). The final sample consists of 5,776 working women (3,359 mothers of a first child and 2,417 mothers of a second child) and of 4,076 non-working women (1,885 mothers of a first child and 2,191 mothers of a second child) for a total of 9,852.
The dependent variable, fertility intentions, was based on responses to a question dealing with the intention of having another child in the future. The responses were either yes or no. Fertility intentions were analyzed separately for the four sub-samples of women to assess if substantial differences existed regarding the determinants of having a second or a third child for working versus non-working women. From responses to the survey module on childcare and the division of household tasks, we first analysed the strategies adopted by the 5,776 working mothers to conciliate their re-entry into the workplace with the care of the new-born, then for all mothers the conciliation between family and household tasks was analysed, and finally the network of help around the 4,076 non-working mothers was analysed. Then we turned our attention to the variables referring to the partners' involvement and we synthesised the great deal of available information by means of a factorial analysis (Benzecri, 1973), which was carried out separately for working and non-working mothers. Finally, we subdivided each group of mothers into homogeneous clusters according to the extent of support they received from their partners by way of participation in care and household activities after childbirth. The cluster analysis output was included among the covariates of the binary logistic regression (Hosmer & Lemeshow, 1989) carried out to study the determinants of the intention of having another child.
Women, Partners' Involvement, and Support Networks in Italy
Italian fathers' participation is noticeably different between partners of working women and partners of non-working women (see Table 1, columns I and 5). Overall, the latter were less involved in childcare and especially in domestic work. Over half the partners of working women attended the delivery versus only slightly over one third of the partners of non-working women. Although the partners of working women spent on average slightly less time (3.8 hours) with their children during working days than the partners of non-working women (4.1 hours), more of the former were reported to be involved in feeding, looking after, and playing with the baby plus taking the baby to the paediatrician or nursery. But father's involvement in childcare did not affect their working time. Less than one out of 13 partners of working women took or intended to take parental leave, even less looked alter the baby when the mothers were at work, and slightly more looked after the babies when they were ill. Partners' participation in household tasks was very limited. Only about one-eight of partners of working women were reported to help with housework and among partners of woman were not employed less than one in twenty five were reported to housework help. For around one half of the partners in both groups their housework help was reported as not changing after childbirth, although the proportion was slightly higher when mothers were not employed. This difference is reflected in a slightly higher percentage of employed women declaring that their partner was more involved after childbirth. Women generally declared satisfaction with the amount of help received.
As reported in Table 2, over three-fourths of mothers after their first birth and over two-thirds of mothers after a second birth who went back to work reported counting on help from an informal network of family and friends. In Italy consists prevalently of grandparents. Less than one out of six mothers who were not employed reported receiving help from the informal network. One third of the working mothers with one child and 55% of working mothers with two children reported relying on a baby-sitter or nursery. Mothers not doing paid work hardly ever used this type of help.
The general picture emerging from this description confirms that Italian women are still the main persons responsible for family and household care. When mothers are employed in most cases they do not share the leave with their partners. They are substantially alone in taking care of the house. They are almost always the only carers when children are ill. The absence of institutional help is almost total and the situation regarding paid sources of help is even worse.
Multiple Correspondence Analysis (MCA) and Classification of Fathers' Involvement into Clusters
MCA, a factorial analysis technique that synthesizes information and provides a graphical representation of the associations among variables, was used to individuate homogenous sub-groups of mothers according to the help received from their partners. All aspects related to fathers' involvement were studied. Variables were classified on the first two factorial dimensions by means of a Cluster Analysis that led to the individuation of homogenous clusters and to the attribution of the mothers in the sample to Clusters. As many of the variables had significant statistical associations, we chose to synthesise all the information about the partner's involvement in order to avoid the risk of collinearity among the covariates to be included in the following models. Both procedures were carried out separately on working mothers and non-working mothers, because of the noticeable differences between the two groups and the availability of distinct information for each of them.
The MCA carried out on the sample of working women generated two main dimensions. One accounts for the father's involvement not affecting the paid working hours and the other accounts for a more extensive involvement in childcare that is likely to affect the father's working schedule. The second dimension was particularly associated with the father's use (or intended use) of parental leave and his staying home to look after the baby when the baby was ill and the mother was at work.
The cluster analysis--carried out using a mixed classification on the two dimensions--led to the identification of three homogeneous subgroups of employed mothers. The first cluster consists of 4,073 women, which is more than two thirds of the sample, who reported "average" father's participation in childcare. As the percentages in the second column of Table 1 indicate, most partners in this cluster were present at the moment of delivery and they spend between three and five hours during working days with their new-born babies feeding them, changing their nappies, taking them to the paediatrician, and playing with them. Only four percent of fathers took or intended to take paternity leave. None of the mothers mentioned their partner as the main carer when she was at work, not even on an occasional basis. Almost none of the partners (2.4%) were reported as staying at home instead of the mother when the child was ill. Only about one out of eight mothers could rely on their partners' help with household tasks, although almost half stated that their partners' involvement increased after child birth and more than half stated they were satisfied with their partners' help.
The second cluster consisted of only 847 women, characterised by "high "fathers' participation. As reported in the third column of Table 1 several characteristics set these partners apart from the others. They were reported as spending the most time with their new-born babies and having the highest use of parental leave. More of these partners than in any other cluster looked after the babies when the woman was at work or when the baby was ill. These partners were also reported as having the highest participation in household tasks and the greatest proportion to increase that participation after childbirth. The vast majority of these women reported being very satisfied with their partners' help.
Finally, the remaining 856 women belong to the cluster of "low" fathers' participation (Table 1, fourth column). As reported by the mothers, a smaller percentage of the fathers in this cluster attended the delivery, most of them did not spend more than three hours a day with their new-borns, and they were involved in a small number of childcare activities. Less than one third of the fathers took part in four of the five child care tasks and only playing with the baby involved more than half of them. Few took or intended to take paternity leave. Few women could count on their partners to look after their babies while they worked or when the child was ill. Partners rarely helped with domestic tasks and the majority of these women reported low satisfaction with their partners.
In regards to the MCA carried out on non-working women, only two groups were identified. The first group consists of the great majority of women (3218 women) whose partners participate to some extent in childcare tasks and the second one includes the remaining 858 women whose partners showed no (or very little) commitment to family life.
The first cluster of "average" father's participation (Table 1, column 6) has a profile that resembles the average profile already observed for working women's partners, except for attendance at delivery with only 35.4% of fathers being present. These fathers reportedly spent on average 4.3 hours with their new babies with almost all involved in feeding them and looking after them and over two-thirds playing with them and taking them to the doctor but they rarely took the babies to the nursery. Partner support did not involve household chores, although almost half of the women declared that their partners' participation increased after childbirth and almost none reported low satisfaction with their partners' help. Partners' participation appears to have been basically limited to the evening hours after work and only to aspects related to the care of the new-born.
The cluster of "low" father's participation (Table 1, column 7) consists of women whose partners reportedly were the least involved ill fatherhood or household chores. These partners had the smallest proportion who attended the delivery and spent on average the least amount of time (3.1 hours) with their babies. Fewer than three out of ten fathers helped feed their babies, looked after them, or took them to the doctor and almost none of them took their babies to the nursery. The partners' participation in household tasks was negligible and for more than two thirds of them it did not change after childbirth. Over two-fifths of the women reported low satisfaction with the help partners provided.
Determinants of Fertility Expectations Focusing on Fathers' Collaboration
Mother's fertility expectations, analysed by means of logistic regression on the dichotomous dependent variable of fertility intentions, were studied in relation to a set of covariates that account for the father's involvement while controlling for the help the mother received from formal and informal networks and the mother's socio-demographic characteristics. Table 2 contains the categories and distributions for these variables.
The control variable we first included was mother's area of residence based on contextual differences existing among Italian regions in terms of culture, socio-economic conditions, and strategies for combining work and childcare arrangements. The variable was coded into the categories of North, Centre, and South based on clusters of Italy according to demographic patterns, gender system, and family support developed for a previous study (Pinnelli & Fiori, 2007). Northern Italy is characterised by a more advanced level of economic development, a more equitable gender system, a more extensive network of support for motherhood, and--up to the time of the survey--lower fertility and mortality levels (although recently fertility trends showed signs of recovery in the North while decreasing greatly in the South resulting in an inversion of the differences). The Southern region present completely opposite features and the Central region lie in an intermediate position.
Control variables related to the mothers' characteristics included mother's age at interview as we expected that being older would limit the intention of having another child. We also controlled for mother's educational level and civil status. As all the selected women are living with their child's father, the civil status variable only distinguishes between married and cohabiting.
Another control variable was problems at childbirth as a problematic experience was expected to discourage future fertility intentions. The variable was dummy-coded with those mothers who had a caesarean birth or child born below 2500 grams of weight being coded 1. Having a caesarean birth was the great majority in this category. Overall, 34% of the interviewed women had a caesarean birth, which is a proportion well beyond that considered physiologically normal by WHO (1985). We expected that having a caesarean would limit fertility intentions due to the greater objective and perceived risks with future pregnancies. Modern birth management, which is almost totally under the doctors' decisional power has contributed to the rise in caesarean births. This management conveys the idea that pregnancy and delivery are not natural but risky events in a woman's life, whose outcome depends on the extent and on the quality of the medical assistance.
The models used the variable proportion of monthly income spent to control for the family's economic situation.
For employed mothers, we considered in great detail their working conditions through the inclusion in the models of several covariates to catch constraints on fertility due to career level (status in employment with categories high, medium or low), work schedule (hours worked weekly with categories up to 25 hours, 25-39 hours, and 40 hours and more), and sector of employment (work sector with categories of public or private). Shifting the attention to the extent and the quality of help received from formal and informal networks, we included two dichotomous variables. Help from family and friends included any form of support mothers received from their informal family or friend network, especially grandparents or other relatives. Help from institutions or purchased help included use of kindergartens for the former and paid baby-sitters or house-minders for the latter. Lastly, we considered the role of father's involvement in childbirth and childcare, including the variable father's participation, whose categories were based on the results obtained by the previously described cluster analysis.
The percentage distribution of the dependent variable and of the covariates, by birth order and woman's occupational status, are shown in Table 2. Almost three-fourths of working women with a child intend to have a second, whereas only one in seven of those who already have two children would like to have a third. The two proportions are only slightly higher for non-working women. The majority of working women resided in the North, whereas the majority of non-working women lived in the South. Nearly all the women were married. Cohabitation was a little more widespread among working women, but was still not a very frequent option.
The educational level of working women overall was higher than that of non-working women. Working women were almost three times as likely to have a tertiary education compared to non-working women. Around one third of the women experienced problems with delivery with the proportions being highest among non-working mothers. Working women were less likely to declare a scarce or inadequate income. Reports of poor economic conditions increased with fertility. Most working women rate the status of their occupations as medium and those reporting high status were the smallest group. Working 40 hours and more weekly was the most common amount among employed women with one child, while for employed women with two children the most common amount was 25 to 29 hours. The majority of employed mothers worked in the private sector, which lacks the facilitations to combine work and family life available in public employers. Working women counted on help provided by relatives and friends plus institutional childcare services or paid sources of help, whereas non-working women rarely received similar forms of help. The vast majority of mothers rated their partners' participation in childcare and household activities as average, and only employed mothers rated any of the fathers' participation as high.
According the result of logistic regression, for women who were working before childbirth and were back to work at the time of their interviews and for whom this was their first child (Table 3, first column), the probability of wanting another one was higher in the Centre and South compared to the North, it significantly decreased after 35 years of age, and it was lower for less educated women compared to those with a university degree, and for women who experienced some problems at the birth of the first child. The effects of working conditions were very limited. Only working 40 or more weekly hours discouraged the intention of having a second child, whereas occupational status and working in the more protective public sector did not show any significant influence. The support women received for the care of the child from relatives, friends, institutions, and paid help had no significant influence on intentions. But, a highly involved partner significantly increased the intention to have a second child.
The model referring to the intention of having a third child for working mothers (Table 3, second column) had some results that were already observed for the intention of having the second child. We will only comment of the differences. As to area of residence, living in the South discouraged fertility intentions. This may be explained by the fact that in the Northern region, family formation often stops after the birth of the first child. Therefore, women with two children are already selected as more maternity-oriented, and thus more likely to have a third child. Women living in the Southern region more often have two children and with the second child the great majority of them have reached desired fertility. Women living in the Central region are in an intermediate position between those in the North and those in the South.
Age differences were not significant, while working conditions were. Working in low or medium status occupations hindered the intention of having a third child. Working hours were not significant, but working in the private sector significantly discouraged the intention of having a third child. A high degree of partner's participation in childcare and household activities had a positive influence but was not significant.
Whereas almost all women declared their intention of having a second child, the intention of having the third child was rare and is limited to a select group of women that are particularly oriented towards motherhood. We may conclude that working women with this intention do not rely on partners' collaboration for the realization of their projects and desires. If anything, they appear conditioned by their work features. Only mothers with the highest occupational position and who work in the more protective public sector may afford the luxury of having a third child. Mothers who work in the more competitive private sector in medium and low status positions, and thus easily replaceable, are induced to limit their fertility plans.
In the models for non-working women very few variables had a significant influence on their fertility intentions. Only three covariates (Table 3, third column) in fact significantly affected the intention of having a second child and in a negative direction. Being aged 35 years or more, having completed a tertiary education, and having a low income discouraged the intention to have a second child. Only two covariates (Table 3, fourth column)--residence in the South and age-significantly and negatively affected the intention of having a third child. The unemployed women very rarely received help; however, whether they received support or not did not modify their intentions to have a second or a third child.
Discussion and Conclusion
In this work we analysed the influence of partners' involvement in fatherhood and domestic tasks on the intentions of having another child for a sample of Italian women interviewed 18 to 21 months after childbirth. We identified three clusters of help received from their partners for working women and two for non-working women. On the whole, the results support the hypothesis of a positive influence of partners' involvement in childcare on the fertility intentions of working women with one child. However, partner's participation did not influence the intention of having a third child for working women, and the fertility intentions of non-working women after controlling for demographic and social aspects and the extent of help received from other sources. Furthermore, partners engaging in little collaboration did not exert a significant negative influence on fertility intentions of working women or non-working women.
Noticeable differences existed between working and non-working women. Non-working women in our sample were disadvantaged as they made fewer investments in themselves, they enjoyed less fortunate economic conditions, and finally they received very little support from their partners, informal networks, and institutions. Their fertility intentions did not differ from those of working women. But the fertility intentions of working women were very much conditioned by several factors. They are limited by their living context, age, education, having had problems with a delivery, and working conditions. Nevertheless, if they received a good deal of help from their partners, working women were encouraged to plan for a second child, although not a third one. Evidently, partners' support is important primarily during the first phases of family formation, often as a form of psychological encouragement to the women during their first pregnancy and delivery experience. The help received makes motherhood a positive experience and it encourages carrying on. After the second child, the percentage of women intending to have a third child is very low, and probably at this stage partners' support would not be sufficient to further ease the care burden. Thus, women's fertility plans do not depend on partners' support anymore. Other aspects such as the constraints imposed by the context (e.g., living in the South), by occupational status (e.g., medium or low positions) or by work organization (e.g., working in the private sector) are instead more relevant.
For non-working women, which made up nearly half of the interviewed mothers and which represents a significant proportion of the Italian population, very few covariates had an influence on fertility intentions. The message emerging from this result is that unemployed mothers take upon themselves the total responsibility of the house and family, and they decide their number of offspring independent of socio-economic conditions and amount of help in any form received. This suggests that they take for granted that these responsibilities are their duty. This does not mean, however, that they do not receive any form of help from the partner, although actually they received very little. Rather they do not rely on the help received to plan how many children they intend to have. Thus, despite having the same fertility intentions, working and non-working women greatly differ as to the factors affecting their intentions.
In Italy the male breadwinner model is in force in half of the families. Even within the dual earner families the woman is still from an economic point of view the weaker partner, due to the vertical segregation and the wage discrimination operating in the labour market. In this context, changes in the sharing of care and domestic roles between parents cannot help but be slow, in particular for non-working women. In addition, institutional constraints and family policies work against the reconciliation of work and motherhood (Pinnelli, Racioppi, & Terzera, 2007). The lowest low Italian fertility can be interpreted as a consequence of this situation.
Stronger pressure by women for equal opportunities in the labour market seems absolutely necessary to speed up change of the gender system in Italy. Changes are needed both at the macro level with institutional programs that aid in the conciliation of work and family and at a micro level with partners working towards a more equitable division of roles. Our study highlights the possible positive influence of greater partner involvement in childcare on fertility. Research has demonstrated that "fathers and mothers do not differ with behavioural sensitivity or responsiveness early in their children's lives" (Lamb, Pleck, Charnov, & Levine, 1987, p. 135). Moreover, in light of the attention nowadays devoted to the quality of life, greater paternal involvement in childcare may positively contribute to children's quality of life. These considerations strengthen the desirability of co-parenting and of an equitable sharing of care tasks.
In conclusion, in Italy much room exists for improvements in policies directed toward the family and gender equity. These should include but are not limited to support for greater father involvement, which should favour higher fertility and a better quality of life for children. We may conclude by quoting Folbre's words (1997): "our reproductive problem is not low fertility, but inadequate level of parental and social commitment to the next generation" (p. 651).
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University La Sapienza of Rome, Italy
Antonella Pinnelli and Francesca Fiori, Department of Demography, University La Sapienza of Rome.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Antonella Pinnelli, Department of Demography, University La Sapienza of Rome, Via Collina 36 00187, Rome, Italy. Electronic mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Table 1 Percentage of Fathers' Participation in Household Tasks and Care Activities for Working Women Versus Non-Working Women and for Subclusters of Level of Father Involvement Based on Multiple Correspondence Analysis Working women ALL Cluster 1 2 Average Father's participation (N = 5.776) (n = 4.073) Father attended delivery Yes 55.2 56.9 Hrs. spent by the father with the baby 0-2 hours 22.2 21.5 3 hours 21.7 23.4 4 hours 22.3 26.0 5 hours 15.9 17.1 6 hours and more 17.9 12.0 Father's help in childcare consisted of: Feeding the baby 83.8 93.7 Looking after the baby 88.3 97.9 Playing with the baby 67.4 71.6 Take the baby to the paediatrician 69.0 74.1 Take the baby to the nursery 15.4 18.4 Father made use (or intended to) of leave Yes 7.6 4.0 Father looked after the baby when the mother at work: Yes 4.7 0.0 Father looked after the baby when the baby ill: Yes 8.4 2.4 Father helped in household tasks Yes 12.9 11.6 Father's participation in household tasks after childbirth Same 49.8 49.2 More 43.7 46.7 Less 6.5 4.0 Woman's satisfaction for her partner's help in household tasks High 53.0 56.9 Intermediate 38.5 42.2 Low 8.5 0.9 Working women Cluster Cluster 3 4 High Low Father's participation (n = 847) (n = 856) Father attended delivery Yes 54.1 47.8 Hrs. spent by the father with the baby 0-2 hours 4.5 42.4 3 hours 3.6 29.8 4 hours 12.6 12.6 5 hours 19.5 6.9 6 hours and more 59.8 8.3 Father's help in childcare consisted of: Feeding the baby 96.2 23.1 Looking after the baby 98.5 31.3 Playing with the baby 53.1 59.7 Take the baby to the paediatrician 93.4 21.0 Take the baby to the nursery 9.5 5.7 Father made use (or intended to) of leave Yes 29.4 5.6 Father looked after the baby when the mother at work: Yes 34.0 0.6 Father looked after the baby when the baby ill: Yes 47.3 1.9 Father helped in household tasks Yes 30.6 2.7 Father's participation in household tasks after childbirth Same 39.0 63.1 More 56.2 16.4 Less 4.9 20.4 Woman's satisfaction for her partner's help in household tasks High 78.8 9.3 Intermediate 20.6 37.2 Low 0.6 53.5 Non-working women ALL Cluster Cluster 5 6 7 Average Low Father's participation (N = 4,076) (n = 3,218) (n = 858) Father attended delivery Yes 33.8 35.4 27.4 Hrs. spent by the father with the baby 0-2 hours 16.1 10.7 36.9 3 hours 19.6 19.2 21.4 4 hours 21.5 22.7 17.1 5 hours 16.6 18.6 9.2 6 hours and more 26.0 28.8 15.5 Father's help in childcare consisted of: Feeding the baby 77.9 92.9 20.9 Looking after the baby 79.4 94.3 22.5 Playing with the baby 65.9 66.3 64.5 Take the baby to the paediatrician 67.0 77.5 27.4 Take the baby to the nursery 8.2 9.1 4.9 Father made use (or intended to) of leave Yes n.a. n.a. n.a. Father looked after the baby when the mother at work: Yes n.a. n.a. n.a. Father looked after the baby when the baby ill: Yes n.a. n.a. n.a. Father helped in household tasks Yes 3.6 4.4 0.7 Father's participation in household tasks after childbirth Same 53.7 50.4 66.3 More 39.8 46.7 13.5 Less 6.5 2.9 20.2 Woman's satisfaction for her partner's help in household tasks High 48.3 58.1 11.3 Intermediate 42.3 41.2 46.3 Low 9.3 0.6 42.4 Source: Authors' elaboration and analysis on data for sample taken from ISTAT Survey on Births (2000-2001). Table 2 Percentage Distribution of the Dependent Variable and the Explanatory Covariates by Mothers' Occupational Status and Number of Children Working women one two Occupational status (n = 3.359) (n = 2,417) Number of children(n Fertility intentions Yes 74.3 14.2 No 25.7 85.8 Area of residence North 66.6 61.4 Centre 16.7 17.5 South 16.7 21.1 Mother's age at interview Up to 25 4.2 25-29 26.5 30-34 44.2 35 and more 25.1 Mother's age at interview Up to 29 10.8 30-34 37.6 35-39 41.7 40 and more 10.0 Civil status Married 89.4 95.4 Cohabiting 10.6 4.6 Mother's educational level Tertiary 20.8 23.2 Upper secondary 58.9 53.8 Less than upper secondary 20.3 23.0 Problems with delivery No 66.1 69.6 Yes 33.9 30.4 Proportion of monthly income spent Half or less than half 29.2 19.9 More than half 47.2 48.8 All or insufficient income 23.7 31.4 Status in employment High 13.7 13.0 Medium 63.2 64.0 Low 23.2 23.0 Hours worked weekly Up to 25 32.5 39.3 25-39 30.8 32.0 40 and more 36.7 28.7 Work sector Public 27.3 32.7 Private 72.7 67.3 Help from family and friends No 24.6 31.4 Yes 75.4 68.6 Help from institutions or purchased help No 61.5 45.3 Yes 38.5 54.7 Father's participation Average 72.9 70.4 High 14.9 11.5 Low 12.2 18.1 Non-working women one two Occupational status (n = 1,885) (n = 2,191) Number of children(n Fertility intentions Yes 77.4 15.9 No 22.6 84.1 Area of residence North 28.5 31.6 Centre 16.0 16.8 South 55.6 51.6 Mother's age at interview Up to 25 25.2 25-29 36.8 30-34 27.3 35 and more 10.7 Mother's age at interview Up to 29 30.8 30-34 41.3 35-39 23.2 40 and more 4.8 Civil status Married 90.9 96.4 Cohabiting 9.1 3.6 Mother's educational level Tertiary 7.4 5.3 Upper secondary 47.6 44.5 Less than upper secondary 45.0 50.2 Problems with delivery No 58.0 60.9 Yes 42.0 39.1 Proportion of monthly income spent Half or less than half 19.5 15.6 More than half 37.2 34.7 All or insufficient income 43.4 49.7 Status in employment High Medium Low Hours worked weekly Up to 25 25-39 40 and more Work sector Public Private Help from family and friends No 82.5 89.0 Yes 17.5 11.0 Help from institutions or purchased help No 93.6 95.5 Yes 6.4 4.5 Father's participation Average 81.8 77.0 High Low 18.2 23.0 Source: Authors' elaboration and analysis on data for sample taken from ISTAT Survey on Births (2000-2001). Table 3 Logistic Regression on the /mention of Having another Child by Mothers' Occupational States and Number of children with Odds Ratios and their Significance Occupational Status Working women Number of children One Two (n = 3,359) (n = 2,417) Area of residence North (reference) 1 1 Centre 1.60 *** 0.96 South 1.65 *** 0.60 *** Mother's age at interview Up to 25 (reference) 1 25-29 1.22 30-34 0.95 35 and more 0.30 *** Mother's age at interview Up to 29 1 30-34 1.15 35-39 0.63 40 and more 0.18 Civil status Married (reference) 1 1 Cohabiting 0.87 1.70 Mother's educational level Tertiary 1 1 Upper secondary 0.66 *** 0.62 * Less than upper secondary 0.53 *** 0.60 * Problems with delivery No (reference) 1 1 Yes 0.84 * 0.64 ** Proportion of monthly income spent Half or less than half (reference) 11 1 More than half 0.98 0.73 All or insufficient income 0.95 0.83 Status in employment High (reference) 1 1 Medium 1.03 0.48 *** Low 1.22 0.39 *** Hours worked weekly Up to 25 (reference) 1 1 25-39 1.02 1.01 40 and more 0.8 1 * 0.82 Work sector Public (reference) 1 1 Private 1.10 0.67 ** Help from family and friends No (reference) 1 1 Yes 1.26 0.84 Help from institutions or purchased help No (reference) 1 1 Yes 1.07 1.07 Father's participation Average (reference) 1 1 High 1.12 *** 1.37 Low 0.64 0.98 Likelihood Ratio Test [chi square] [chi square (20) = (20) = 276.94 *** 155.44 *** Occupational Status Non-working women Number of children One Two (n = 1,885) (n = 2,191) Area of residence North (reference) 1 1 Centre 1.14 1.03 South 1.29 0.75 * Mother's age at interview Up to 25 (reference) 1 25-29 1.13 30-34 0.70 35 and more 0.38 *** Mother's age at interview Up to 29 1 30-34 0.51 *** 35-39 0.41 *** 40 and more 0.09 *** Civil status Married (reference) 1 1 Cohabiting 0.71 1.22 Mother's educational level Tertiary 0.62 * 0.88 Upper secondary 0.95 1.12 Less than upper secondary 1 1 Problems with delivery No (reference) 1 1 Yes 0.92 1.18 Proportion of monthly income spent Half or less than half (reference) 1 More than half 0.87 1.24 All or insufficient income 0.71 * 1.08 Status in employment High (reference) Medium Low Hours worked weekly Up to 25 (reference) 25-39 40 and more Work sector Public (reference) Private Help from family and friends No (reference) 1 1 Yes 1.26 1.31 Help from institutions or purchased help No (reference) 1 1 Yes 1.32 1.57 Father's participation Average (reference) 1 1 High Low 1.10 0.85 Likelihood Ratio Test [chi square [chi square (14) = (14) = 69.08 *** 65.11 *** Note. * p < .05. ** p < .01. *** p < .001. Source: Authors' elaboration and analysis on data for sample taken from ISTAT Survey on Births (2000-2001).
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|Author:||Pinnelli, Antonella; Fiori, Francesca|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2008|
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