ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2019, Vol. 51 ›› Issue (4): 428-436.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2019.00428

• Special Column: Behavioral decision-making is nudging China toward the overall revitalization • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Effect of childbearing deadline on women’s wanted fertility

XING Cai,MENG Yuqi,LIN Qingqing,QIN Ziyu   

  1. Department of Psychology, Renmin University of China, Beijing 100872, China
  • Received:2018-01-10 Published:2019-04-25 Online:2019-02-22


The transition to ultra-low level of fertility in China has become a major challenge to its sustainable development. As the population of reproductive-aged women will continue to decline in the upcoming years, enhancing women’s childbearing motivation is important and urgent to avoid further decline of fertility rate. This work is the first attempt to examine the effect of childbearing deadline on women’s childbearing motivation. With socioemotional selectivity theory, life-span theory of control, and previous findings about the ending effect in the field of decision making as basis, this work aims to examine the causal link between women’s childbearing deadline and motivation.

Three studies were conducted in this work. The first study used an online questionnaire to examine the relationship between the time left women perceived before their childbearing deadline and their childbearing motivation. Women who perceive they are closer to their childbearing deadline reported higher childbearing motivation. The second study, which was conducted in laboratory settings, examined the causal effect between these two factors by manipulating women’s perception of optimal childbearing deadline. Participants were randomly assigned to two experimental conditions: limited and extended. Participants who were told that women’s optimal childbearing deadline is 26 fell under the former condition, and those who were told that the deadline is 32 fell under the latter. Participants’ baseline childbearing motivation served as another independent variable. Participants completed an implicit association test with pictures of babies and baby animals served as stimuli. They also completed a brief questionnaire in which they answered three questions concerning their childbearing motivation. An interaction effect between childbearing deadline and baseline childbearing motivation emerged in the reaction time of the implicit association test. Simple effect analyses revealed that participants with higher baseline childbearing motivation showed greater increase in their childbearing motivation compared with those with lower baseline childbearing motivation. Participants in the limited condition showed greater increase in their childbearing motivation compared with those in the extended condition. Participants in studies 1 and 2 were young single women. Study 3 tested this effect among married women who were aged below 40 with one or no child. Half of them were primed with a childbearing deadline, whereas the other half were in the control condition. Participants primed with a childbearing deadline showed greater number of wanted fertility, which further supported the findings in studies 1 and 2. This work marks only the beginning. When and how does childbearing deadline influence women’s childbearing motivation should be further explored.

Key words: childbearing, motivation ending effect, psychological reactance, life-span theory of control, women

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