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Spain: Grandparents' involvement helps women achieve fertility intention

Study: Do I want more if you help me? The impact of grandparental involvement on men’s and women’s fertility intentions

  • Background: Over the last four decades, advanced societies have witnessed a notable decline in fertility rates. This trend initially coincided with women’s evolving roles in society, but various factors, including state policies and familial support systems, have since shaped these trends.
  • Focus of Study: This study delves into the impact of grandparental support on fertility intentions, particularly in Spain, a country characterized by late motherhood and weak family policies.

Why It Matters:

  • Social Planning: Understanding fertility trends is vital for demographic planning and social policy development.
  • Intergenerational Support: Insights into the role of grandparents in fertility decisions can help frame policies that support family life balance.
  • Gender-Specific Impacts: Recognizing how fertility intentions differ between men and women can lead to more targeted and effective policies.

Core Findings

  1. Grandparental Support and Women’s Fertility:
    • General Trend: Grandparental support has a significant positive impact on the fertility intentions of women, more so than men.
    • High-Educated Women: This group shows a particularly strong response to grandparental support, likely due to higher work-family conflicts.
    • Spain’s Unique Context: The impact of grandparental support is especially pronounced in Spain, reflecting the country’s familialistic values and weak public family policies.
  2. Socio-Economic Influences:
    • Education and Employment: Fertility intentions are influenced by women’s education level and employment status, with highly educated women showing higher responsiveness to grandparental support.
    • Income Levels: Household income also plays a role, although its impact is less pronounced compared to education and employment.
  3. The Spanish Fertility Landscape:
    • Low Fertility Rates: Spain’s fertility rates are among Europe’s lowest, with a significant gap between desired and actual fertility.
    • Labor Market Dynamics: Women in Spain face a notable motherhood penalty, impacting career trajectories and earnings.
    • Cultural Factors: Strong familial ties and reliance on grandparental support are characteristic of the Spanish context.

In-Depth Analysis

  • Gender Differences in Perceived Parenthood Costs:
    • Women’s Perspective: Women, particularly after childbirth, bear the brunt of housework and childcare, affecting their career development and independence.
    • Men’s Perspective: Men tend to perceive parenthood as enhancing their partnership quality, with less impact on career trajectories.
  • Grandparental Support in Spanish Society:
    • Relevance in Spain: In Spain, grandparental support is not just practical aid but a reflection of cultural values and familial ties.
    • Impact on Fertility Intentions: Grandparental childcare provision is seen as a crucial factor in increasing women’s labor force participation and fertility intentions, particularly for high-educated women.
  • Role of Grandparental Support Across Parities:
    • Second Child Transition: Grandparental support significantly influences the intention to have a second child, aligning with the average desired family size in Spain.
    • Beyond Second Child: The influence of grandparental support diminishes the intention to have a third or subsequent child.

Policy Implications and Recommendations

  • Supportive Family Policies: There’s a need for policies that acknowledge and enhance the role of grandparental support in fertility decisions.
  • Work-Life Balance: Creating more family-friendly work environments, particularly for highly educated women, can help bridge the fertility gap.
  • Childcare Options: Improving access to affordable childcare and promoting flexible work arrangements can support families in balancing work and family life.

Future Research Directions

  • Longitudinal Studies: Further research using longitudinal data can help understand how fertility intentions translate into actual behaviors.
  • Comparative Studies: Examining different countries can provide insights into how cultural, economic, and policy contexts influence the role of grandparental support.
  • Gender Dynamics in Fertility Decisions: Investigating the negotiation and decision-making processes within couples regarding fertility can offer deeper insights into gender-specific fertility behaviors.


Key Takeaway: This study underscores the significant impact of grandparental support on fertility intentions, particularly for women and more so in contexts with weaker family policies like Spain.

Broader Perspective: The findings highlight the need for comprehensive family support systems that consider the multifaceted influences on fertility, from gender dynamics and socio-economic factors to cultural norms and state policies.

Final Thought: Addressing the fertility gap in advanced societies requires a nuanced understanding of the interplay between family dynamics, state policies, and societal values. Grandparental support emerges as a pivotal element in this equation, shaping the future of family planning and demographic trends.