Ambivalent Fertility Preferences: Towards a Better Understanding of Reproductive Desires and Choice

Maggie Rechel, Ohio State University

Fertility preferences are known to be subject to uncertainty, ambiguity, and variation in intensity. Yet the extensive analyses of fertility preferences in developing countries (via DHS) have relied on simple categorical representations. In this analysis we make use of an item included in many DHS surveys (41 surveys in 36 countries) that provides one indicator of complexity of preferences: women are asked whether becoming pregnant soon would be "a problem" (none, small, big). This provides a basis for indicators of preference ambivalence. We examine the prevalence of preference ambivalence, and we investigate whether it helps explain unmet need for family planning. The data reveal that ambivalence is common (in excess of 20% of women in most surveys). We also consider whether preference ambivalence varies by stage of fertility decline and by socioeconomic characteristics (e.g. schooling). This is the most rigorous comprehensive analysis to date of preference ambivalence in DHS data.

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Presented in Session 176: Contraception Non-Use and Risk of Unintended Pregnancy