Pushy parents make for later grandparents: parents’ educational expectations and their children’s fertility among two British cohorts

Dylan Kneale


The timing of first birth is often viewed through the opportunity costs of childbearing theory – greater potential in the labour market will lead to postponement of first birth. This paper examines the effect of parental educational expectations in shaping opportunity costs as predictors of early parenthood, using data from two British Birth cohorts born in 1958 and 1970. Rapid inter-cohort changes in labour market and educational patterns could change the importance of educational expectations in determining time to first parenthood. Two definitions of early parenthood are used – one relative, based upon the first quartile of each cohort entering parenthood, and the second equating to teenage parenthood. Parental educational expectations measured at age 16 are used in binary logistic regression models for men and women. Predicted probabilities are presented to emphasise the contrast between educational expectations and socioeconomic measures. Parental educational expectations are found to be strong predictors of early fertility in most models. Expecting any post-compulsory education leads to a decrease in the odds of early parenthood against a battery of controls. Where the expectations of parents are non-significant, those of the teacher are significant. Only in the 1970 cohort teenage fatherhood model were educational expectations of important adults found to be non-significant. Adult, usually parental, high educational expectations reduce the probability of young people becoming early parents, even in the presence of controlling factors that are usually assumed to account for this relationship. This indicates a role for parents in future interventions aimed at lowering levels of early parenthood.


Parenthood; Fertility; Early Motherhood; Educational Expectations

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.14301/llcs.v1i2.65

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