Costly children: the motivations for parental investment in children in a low fertility context

Anne H. Gauthier*, Petra W. de Jong

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    12 Citations (Scopus)
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    While the literature has documented a general increase in parental investment in children, both in terms of financial and time investment, the motives for this increase remain unclear. This paper aims at shedding light on these motives by examining parents’ own narratives of their parenting experiences from the vantage point of three theoretical perspectives. In doing so, the paper brings side-by-side the goal of providing children with human and social capital to improve their future labour market prospects, the pressures on parents to conform to new societal standards of good and intensive parenting, and the experience of parenting as part of self-development. The data come from a qualitative study of middle-income parents in Canada and the USA. The results provide some support for each of these perspectives, while also revealing how they jointly help explain parents’ large investment in their children as well as the tensions and contradictions that come with it.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number6
    Number of pages19
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Dec-2021


    • Cost of children
    • Intensive parenting
    • Low fertility
    • Parental investment
    • Qualitative

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