Fertility Awareness and the Efficacy of the Fertility Education

Funding: OTKA/ NKFIH  
Duration:  September 1, 2017—February 28, 2021 (36 months)

In the past several decades, fertility in Hungary sharply dropped. Scholars found socioeconomic causes behind this trend. For example, women with higher education achievement have delayed entering the labor market. The consequence is that they put off having babies until the early thirties when ovulation slows down. Men have also held up the task. The lack of stable relationships have posed new challenges for baby delivering; and parents’ wish to ensure financial stability for their heirs before a baby is on his way is reasonable. But all this also means more couples end up without children.

While assisted reproduction technologies (ART) are available in Hungary, where the government subsidizes the treatment for heterosexual couples and single women, fewer potential fathers know that smoking,  among other life-style behaviors, can put childbearing (including through ARTs) at stake. Research studies have shown that those who put off childbearing and fail to deliver a baby question themselves: Why didn’t I try it earlier?

To help couples avoid the need for facing this question, Ivett Szalma’s project has two goals: one is to examine how much Hungarians know about age-related fertility and ARTs; another is to foster this knowledge. First, Szalma will measure the participants’ knowledge on fertility with a web survey developed by the Canadian researcher Judit Daniluk, which will be adapted for the Hungarian context. She will also conduct interviews and focus groups. Second, she will perform a quasi-experimental design with three groups: one will attend an interactive lecture by an expert; one will access information on the web; another won’t receive any of these solutions. The goal is to find out what types of methods work—or are more effective—for knowledge retention. She will repeat the experiment a year later to see whether the lectures or the use of online information also have long-term effects.

Szalma is currently prospecting funds to conclude her project. She plans on writing four journal articles for high quality journals and on publishing a monograph about her findings. Her journal articles A gyermektelenség mintázatai magyar férfiak körében: egy interjús vizsgálat folytatása (Patterns of childlessness among Hungarian men) and A gyermektelenség mintázatai magyar férfiak körében: egy interjús vizsgálat folytatása (Patterns of childlessness among Hungarian men: A continuation of a qualitative study), with co-author Judit Takács from the Institute for Sociology, will come out in 2018 in the Hungarian journals Magyar Tudomány and Szociológiai Szemle, respectively. In 2019, Ivett will present some of her results at the Conference Sociological explorations of sexuality in Europe: bodies, practices, and resistance in troubled times in Cracow, Poland.

One of her preliminary discoveries shows that couples who choose ARTs believe a genetic biological link between children and parent is important; and couples indifferent to biological links may turn to adoption. Besides shedding light on how family planning influences couples’ decisions, her results have societal impacts. For instance, politicians, decision makers, and civil society organizations would learn about effective fertility-related educational methods—and each one would contribute to designing policies that foster knowledge retention among different social groups since their early ages: at Hungarian schools, for example, which miss curricula on that. Policies on adoption would likewise benefit from more information on parents’ preferences. In the same way, policies arising from Szalma’s findings benefit couples in fertility age. More than knowing whether ART applies and what it can do for them, couples would plan their families better: by knowing the best time for giving birth to babies and by fixing life-style attitudes that would otherwise lead to the question: why didn’t I try it earlier?

Principal investigator (PI):

Ivett Szalma
Research Fellow 
Researcher profile page 

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