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Research project

Reproductive strategies, families and intergenerational exchange

Project overview

The high costs of raising children are an important obstacle to the realisation of couples' fertility intentions. This project investigates the role of various forms of (grand)parental support in the formation and realisation of fertility intentions, including informal childcare and financial contributions such as assistance with housing costs. The research examines how these patterns have changed over time and how they differ by socio-economic background and migrant status/ethnicity.

Data from Understanding Society, the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) and Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) are used to investigate whether adult children's fertility decisions are based on the possibility of attaining childcare and other support from their parents. We also look at whether these decisions are different depending on the number of children already born (birth order).

The research will also examine how the Covid-19 pandemic has reshaped informal childcare and whether the effects of the pandemic and associated periods of home-working and home-schooling during lockdowns have been short-lived or long term.

The research findings will inform policies on early years childcare provision and the support needed by working families.

Many western countries have seen rising levels of separation and the formation of complex families through re-partnering and childbearing within successive partnerships. Yet, surprisingly little is known about the experience of multi-partner fertility in the UK and its implications for inter-generational relations and social inequalities.

This research will also explore the connections between generations within complex families from the perspective of children (based on MCS and Next Steps) and parents (based on the British Cohort Study 70 and the National Child Development Study). The work looks at gender differences in multi-partner fertility, examining the particular situation of fathers given that they are more often non-resident from their biological children following separation. The study examines how re-partnering and subsequent childbearing within a new partnership affects the relational and financial involvement of non-resident fathers in their children's lives.

The findings will be of interest to charities such as Kinship and Government departments, including DWP, in planning how best to support complex families e.g. in terms of welfare provision, and legal issues, for example, in relation to access to (grand)children from dissolved partnerships.

This research project is funded through the ESRC Centre for Population Change Connecting Generations, directed by Professor Jane Falkingham. This research project is jointly led by Professor Ann Berrington and Professor Hill Kulu (University of St Andrews) with Dr Heini Vaisanen (University of Southampton), Dr Francesca Fiori, Professor Elspeth Graham, Dr Katherine Keenan, Dr Mhairi Hale and Dr Julia Mikolai (University of St Andrews).


Lead researcher

Professor Ann Berrington

Professor-Demography&Social Statistics

Collaborating research institutes, centres and groups

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