How personality affects fertility

Study: Personality effects on fertility

Men with neurotic personality traits are having fewer children compared to previous generations, according to a new study published in the European Journal of Personality. The study examined the effect of personality on how likely a person is to have children, using extensive survey and birth registry data from Norway. It also found that men who are extraverted and open tend to have more children, while women who rank as conscientious on personality tests tend to have fewer children, although these findings were constant across generations.

The study could have important implications for at a time when across developed countries have fallen to below replacement rates. Personality effects may be one factor contributing to the decline of fertility rates in Europe, says IIASA's Vegard Skirbekk, who led the study, but they have not previously been studied in detail. Population changes are an important factor for projecting future changes in sustainability, climate, energy, and food security, IIASA's core research areas.

In particular, Skirbekk notes the decline in among neurotic men—neurotic meaning individuals who tend to be moody and emotional.. The study found that the effect only applies for men born after 1957. Skirbekk says that the change in these men's fertility could be due to new norms in having children, for example that couples today wait longer to have children, and couples tend to test each other out more before committing to raising children together.

The study was made possible by Norway's very detailed birth records and an integrated personality survey, which allowed the researchers to examine the connections between both female and and personality. "For men, often you don't know exactly how many children they have because information is not matched in the registries, but for Norway we have very exact information" says Skirbekk.

While the study only considers Norway, Skirbekk says that the findings likely apply more widely. "Norway is a leader country in terms of family dynamics," says Skirbekk, "Many trends that have been observed first in Norway—increasing cohabitation, divorce rates, and later marriage, for example—have then been observed later in many other parts of the world. Of course it remains to be seen if this phenomenon will also spread."

More information: Skirbekk, V. and Blekesaune, M. (2013), Personality Traits Increasingly Important for Male Fertility: Evidence from Norway. Eur. J. Pers. DOI: 10.1002/per.1936

Provided by International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis

5 /5 (1 vote)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Fertility rates affected by global economic crisis

Jun 28, 2011

The global economic recession of 2008-09 has been followed by a decline in fertility rates in Europe and the United States, bringing to an end the first concerted rise in fertility rates in the developed world ...

Recommended for you

Could summer camp be the key to world peace?

4 hours ago

According to findings from a new study by University of Chicago Booth School of Business Professor Jane Risen, and Chicago Booth doctoral student Juliana Schroeder, it may at least be a start.

Gender disparities in cognition will not diminish

Jul 28, 2014

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, investigated the extent to which improvements in living conditions and educational opportunities over a person's life affect cognitive abilities and th ...

Facial features are the key to first impressions

Jul 28, 2014

A new study by researchers in the Department of Psychology at the University of York shows that it is possible to accurately predict first impressions using measurements of physical features in everyday images of faces, such ...

User comments