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Psychol Sci. 2012 Aug 1;23(8):835-41. doi: 10.1177/0956797612439067. Epub 2012 Jun 20.

Birth-cohort effects in the association between personality and fertility.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Helsinki, Finland.


The present study investigated whether associations between individuals' personality traits and whether they have children have been modified by birth-cohort effects in the 20th-century United States. Participants were from the Midlife Development in the United States study (n = 6,259) and the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study (n = 3,994) and were born between 1914 and 1974. Data on personality traits of the Five Factor model and fertility history were collected in adulthood. Higher levels of openness to experience in both sexes and higher levels of conscientiousness in women were associated with lower fertility, and these associations strengthened linearly as birth cohorts became younger. In the total sample, high extraversion, low neuroticism, and women's high agreeableness were associated with high fertility rate, but there were no systematic cohort effects. The fertility decisions of people with certain personality traits may be influenced by prevailing societal and cultural circumstances.

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