Sociology, Department of



Published in Journal of Marriage and Family 81 (October 2019), pp 1162–1173.

doi 10.1111/jomf.12595


Copyright © 2019 National Council on Family Relations; published by Wiley-Blackwell. Used by permission.


Objective: To determine whether the association between changes in life satisfaction and becoming a mother (or not) depends on fertility problem identification status.

Background: Evidence and symbolic interactionist theory suggest that, for women who initially perceive a fertility barrier, gaining the valued identity “mother” should be associated with increases and continuing to face a blocked goal (i.e., not becoming a mother) should be associated with decreases in life satisfaction.

Method: This study used the nationally representative two-wave National Survey of Fertility Barriers to conduct a change-score analysis with chained multiple imputation. The focal dependent variable was change in life satisfaction. Focal independent variables were Wave 1 life satisfaction, fertility problem identification status, and birth between waves, controlling for stability and change in relationship status, talking to a doctor about how to get pregnant, religiosity, social support, importance of parenthood, importance of leisure, importance of work success, and economic hardship.

Results: Among women who perceived a fertility problem at both waves, becoming a mother was associated with increased life satisfaction and not becoming a mother was associated with decreased life satisfaction. Women who gained or lost a fertility problem perception between waves but did not have a live birth experienced a gain in life satisfaction between waves, suggesting the relevance of the duration of fertility problem perception for change in life satisfaction.