Social Meaning of Children (completed)

Reproductive choice, gender and social class

About the project

The inability of the western world to reproduce its population is expected to have dramatic consequences for the future; the conception of a "fertility crisis" has entered public debate in many countries. By contrast, individual women and men may regard the ability to choose to have fewer children as a means to freedom and self-empowerment. Understanding personal reasoning in relation to reproductive choice is consequently a pressing issue.

Will somebody play with me?Photo: Frank Paul Silye (© All Rights Reserved)

Key questions addressed in the project are: How are children imagined and positioned within individual lifestyles and in society? How do young women and men reason about having children - as a privilege, a liability or a "fact of life"? How do social, economic and institutional conditions interact in facilitating versus constraining having children? The project will address these issues from a perspective of social stratification, and compare our findings to other European countries. To understand the new fertility trends we need a closer focus on men's values and priorities, and on gendered relationships and processes. Class differences in fertility patterns also need more
attention. Processes on various analytical levels are relevant for the choice to have or not to have children, when to have them, and the number of children. We will apply a multi-level analysis of individual reproductive choice.

Our research objectives are theoretical and empirical. The project will be interdisciplinary, primarily combining theoretical and empirical approaches from demography, sociology and social anthropology. A common data set of qualitative and quantitative data will be established.


Primary objective: To explore the social meaning of children, as reflected in reproductive choice, from a gender and class perspective.

Secondary objectives:

  1. contribute new empirical knowledge about the social mechanisms underlying fertility patterns in Norway
  2. situating Norway in a European context through a multi-country empirical analysis and a comparative book project
  3. theory development on reproductive choice as a contextual concept.  


The project is managed in co-operation with NTNU, and runs from 1.8.2009-31.7.2012. The project is funded by Research Council of Norway (FRISAM)


Researchers from Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, France and Switzerland are involved in the comparative book project

Published Sep. 2, 2010 9:35 AM - Last modified Sep. 28, 2016 1:06 PM


Visiting address

Moltke Moes street 31
Harriet Holters building
2nd floor

Postal address

P.O. Box 1096 Blindern
0317 Oslo

Phone and e-mail

22 85 52 57 (phone)


Detailed list of participants