Sociology, Department of


Date of this Version

Spring 4-9-2014


Richardson, Elizabeth A. 2014. "Is Gaining, Losing or Keeping a Self-Identified Fertility Problem Associated with Changes in Self-Esteem?" MA thesis, Department of Sociology, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE.


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: Sociology, Under the Supervision of Professor Julia McQuillan. Lincoln, Nebraska: March, 2014

Copyright (c) 2014 Elizabeth A. Richardson


Because motherhood is an expected and valued identity in the United States, becoming a mother should lead to an increase in self-esteem and perceiving a problem becoming a mother should lead to a decrease in self-esteem. Little research has examined the combined experience of both identifying with a fertility problem and becoming a mother or not over time. Guided by identity theory framework, this study uses two waves of data from the National Survey of Fertility Barriers (NSFB) to examine how change and stability in motherhood status and perceived fertility barrier status is associated with changes in self-esteem among women who initially were not mothers. Results revealed that gaining or losing a fertility problem identity was not associated with changes in self-esteem; however, becoming a mother was associated with increased self-esteem. The persistence of a fertility problem identity was associated with a decrease in self-esteem for those who did not become a mother and increased self-esteem for those who did become a mother. Women who did not report a fertility problem at either interview and became a mother by wave 2 had a significant increase in self-esteem between waves. A small group of women became mothers and identified a fertility problem at wave two; this group had a substantial increase in self-esteem, and the association was larger for older compared to younger women. These findings suggest that becoming a mother has a bigger impact on a woman’s self-esteem than perceiving a fertility problem.

Adviser: Julia McQuillan