Sequencing norms in transition to motherhood in two generations of Slovak women

Michaela Potancokova, Charles University, Prague

Over the 1990s model of early and universal childbearing and marriage and higher fertility was replaced by postponement of childbearing and marriage and lowest-low period fertility. Demographic studies answer question on when women have children but not why they have them at that age and not earlier or later. We study transition to motherhood of Slovak women as a life course event. In modern societies well-defined sequences of life course have developed into a social institution providing individuals with model how to organise their lives. We compare reproductive careers of women during the state socialism and nowadays using biographical interviews and qualitative analysis. While women of the older generation, who had their children in the 1970s, considered childbearing “natural” part of their lives, women nowadays perceive it more a topic and find it difficult to decide when to become a mother. Women speak of ideal steps in their life before they become mothers: education, work experience, experience abroad and travelling are stages of life one should have behind before settling down and forming a family. Having own housing and enough financial resources is considered problematic and necessary at the same time. Ideal sequence education- experience-job-financial security-housing represents recognised “responsible behaviour” and serves as social norm. Postponement of childbearing is part of this new norm and age norms also shift towards higher age. While women of older generations considered their early and mid-20s ideal for childbearing, their daughters think rather of age around 30. Perceptions on ideal life course and sequencing norms do not serve as a blueprint for women’s behaviour but constitute an important input for individual mental schemes that motivate their behaviour. Women’s views on (until) when they should become mothers are important to understand if we want to uncover mechanisms underlying current and previous trends in reproductive behaviour.

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Presented in Poster Session 1