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Social Interaction Effects on Fertility: Intentions and Behaviors
European Journal of Population
The existing literature shows that social interactions in individuals' networks affect their reproductive attitudes and behaviors through three mechanisms: social influence, social learning, and social support. In this paper, we discuss to what extent the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB), an individual based theorization of intentions and behavior used to model fertility, takes these social mechanisms into account. We argue that the TPB already integrates social influence and that it could easily accommodate the two other social network mechanisms. By doing so, the theory would be enriched in two respects. First, it will explain more completely how macro level changes eventually ends in micro level changes in behavioral intentions. Indeed, mechanisms of social influence may explain why changes in representations of parenthood and ideal family size can be slower than changes in socio-economic conditions and institutions. Social learning mechanisms should also be considered, since they are crucial to distinguish who adopts new behavioral beliefs and practices, when change at the macro level finally sinks in. Secondly, relationships are a capital of services that can complement institutional offering (informal child care) as well as a capital of knowledge which help individuals navigate in a complex institutional reality, providing a crucial element to explain heterogeneity in the successful realization of fertility intentions across individuals. We develop specific hypotheses concerning the effect of social interactions on fertility intentions and their realization to conclude with a critical review of the existing surveys suitable to test them and their limits.
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