Sociology Ph.D. Dissertations


Fertility Intentions and Attitudes Towards Children Among Unmarried Men and Women: Do Sexual Orientation and Union Status Matter?

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Wendy Manning, Dr.

Second Advisor

Susan Brown, Dr. (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Kara Joyner, Dr. (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Laura Sanchez, Dr. (Committee Member)

Fifth Advisor

Nancy Patterson, Dr. (Committee Member)


This study examines fertility wants, attitudes, and intentions to have a child to illustrate differences that exist within the unmarried population in terms of union status and sexual orientation. Using data on 15,418 men and women from the 2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth (Cycle 7), I find that fertility attitudes and intentions to have a child differ significantly by union status. Married men and women have more positive attitudes towards children than those who are unmarried. Singles and cohabiters lag behind married men and women in their intentions to have a child, and cohabiters have significantly less certain fertility intentions than singles. However, cohabiters have greater odds of wanting a child than marrieds and singles. There are, however, gender and age differences. At older ages, cohabiting women have significantly greater intentions to have a child than older marrieds and singles. The results also demonstrate differences between sexual minorities and heterosexuals. While many sexual minorities want to have children and intend becoming parents, their attitude towards children is less positive and they report less certain fertility intentions than heterosexuals. However, while sexual minority men, in general, have the least certain fertility intentions of all groups, when in a couple, their intentions to have a child surpass those of sexual minority women and heterosexual men. These findings provide evidence of many differences in fertility wants, attitudes, and intentions across sexual orientation, union status, gender, and age. This study adds to the growing literature on sexual minority families and demonstrates ways in which sexual minorities are similar to or different from heterosexuals in their family formation desires and attitudes. It also offers suggestions for future research on fertility intentions among unmarried men and women and the meaning of marriage and cohabitation among this group.