Family formation in Scotland : the role of social norms, housing and partnership
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This thesis examines family formation in Scotland, with a focus on having a first birth. I argue that fertility behaviour must be researched as part of a process of family formation across the life course and informed by the conceptual framework of the Theory of Planned Behaviour. Starting from geographical patterns in fertility rates, housing and partnership, I establish relationships between shared social attitudes, partnership, housing, and family formation behaviour. I use cross-sectional and panel data from the Scottish Social Attitude Survey, the Scottish Census, the Scottish Longitudinal Study and the British Household Panel Study. The methodological contribution lies in the use of a Latent Class Analysis to identify shared social attitudes groups, which are then incorporated in more generic models predicting fertility intentions and first birth outcomes. The findings indicate that social attitudes and norms are important for family formation. While the Second Demographic Transition Theory argued that social norms are being replaced by more independent choices, more recent fertility literature has called for more attention to social norms. The current thesis thus supports these recent calls by showing how social norms might be (indirectly) measured in quantitative research. A key focus is on relationships between housing and family formation, especially normative ideas of ‘proper’ family housing. I demonstrate that family housing is a significant predictor of first births, at least for women. The gendered nature of family formation is also demonstrated by the different indicators found to predict men’s and women’s fertility intentions and realisations. I conclude that improved understanding of fertility behaviour requires longitudinal research that goes beyond the usual fertility indicators such as partnership and recognises the importance of gender differences, housing, shared social attitudes, and, above all, the continuing relevance of social norms in the family formation process.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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