Childbearing motivation and its measurement

J Biosoc Sci. 1995 Oct;27(4):473-87. doi: 10.1017/s0021932000023087.


This paper conceptualises the motive force behind human childbearing as originating in two broad traits which have biological bases, are shaped by experiences during early life and are expressed through their effect on desires and intentions. An instrument for measuring childbearing motivation, the Childbearing Questionnaire (CBQ), is presented. Using a sample of 401 married couples two main scales, nine subscales, and several independent items are described. Evidence for the reliability and validity of this instrument is presented. The versatility of the CBQ as a research instrument and the usefulness of the conceptualisation from which it is derived as a way of integrating social, behavioural, and biological science approaches to childbearing motivation are discussed.

PIP: This article describes an instrument for measuring childbearing motivation that is compatible with theories of fertility desires, microeconomic models of fertility, and demand-for-children models. The instrument is based on assumptions about biologically based attitudes that regulate responsiveness to children and caretaking, about two broad traits that are influenced by individual experiences in childhood and early adulthood, and about childbearing dispositions that affect behavior and fertility through their effect on fertility desires. The sample included 200 married couples with no children and 201 married couples with one child from Santa Clara, California. Each husband and wife were administered questionnaires separately and privately. Reinterviews were conducted over the phone after 1 year, 2 years, and 3 years, and the Childbearing Questionnaire (CBQ) was mailed and self-administered. The instrument measured Positive Childbearing Motivation (PCM) and Negative Childbearing Motivation (NCM). PCM subscales included satisfaction of child rearing, feeling needed and connected, instrumental values of children, traditional parenthood, and joys of pregnancy, birth, and infancy. NCM subscales were identified as discomforts of pregnancy and childbirth, fears and worries of parenthood, negatives of child care, and parental stress. The CBQ was tested separately for reliability. Findings indicate that all of the correlations of PCM and NCM with childbearing desires and intentions were very significant. Correlations were greater for desires than intentions. The results confirm the validity of CBQ as a useful measure of fertility motivation. PCM and NCM had moderately long-term stability. The measures were not correlated with each other. Personality traits of nurturance, affiliation, and autonomy were the strongest predictors of PCM and NCM. Parenting experiences also affected subsequent childbearing motivations. Age was negatively associated with PCM. The CBQ could be modified for other cultures or parity groups.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marriage
  • Motivation*
  • Pregnancy*
  • Psychometrics
  • Social Class