Ideational Influences on the Transition to Parenthood: Attitudes Towards Childbearing and Competing Alternatives

In this paper I propose an expansion of the theory of planned behavior that considers how attitudes toward competing behaviors affect a focal behavior. Specifically, I explore how attitudes toward childbearing and the competing behaviors of educational attainment, career development, and consumer spending affect childbearing behavior. The empirical analyses use data from an eight-wave longitudinal study of mother-child pairs, the Intergenerational Panel Study of Parents and Children. The results indicate that positive attitudes toward children and childbearing increase rates of marital childbearing, while positive attitudes toward careers and luxury goods reduce rates of pre-marital childbearing. I conclude that theories and models of the attitude-behavior relationship should be expanded to include attitudes toward competing behaviors, and that social scientists who study childbearing behavior would benefit from greater emphasis on social psychological explanations of behavior.