Who remains childless? [Seed Funding]

Psychology and sociology researchers have independently examined who is more likely to remain childless. However, the prevalent theoretical models and empirical approaches fail to clarify why childlessness is increasing even in the presence of family-friendly policies and economic upturns. Dr. Ivanova and Dr. van Scheppingen combine insights from personality psychology and family sociology to elucidate why some individuals among a contemporary cohort of Dutch adults do not become parents. This project is part of the Healthy Lifespan theme.

As social norms about the transition to parenthood relax, this opens up the potential for individual dispositions, like personality, to play a more focal role in shaping fertility outcomes. By combining insights from family sociology and personality psychology, we pay explicit attention to the interplay between micro-level characteristics (i.e., personality), and meso- and macro-level conditions (e.g., characteristics of the social network, changes in labor market conditions) in the study childlessness among contemporary Dutch adults.

Our research questions will be addressed by enriching the Longitudinal Internet Studies for Social sciences (LISS) panel with CBS microdata. By combining these data sources, we are able to overcome an important shortcoming of many existing studies on childlessness: the well-documented positive selection into continued participation in longitudinal panel studies. Specifically, certain potentially problematic characteristics (high neuroticism, marital instability, lower socio-economic status) increase the likelihood to drop out of panel studies. Enriching the LISS panel with CBS microdata allows us to overcome this challenge.

Together, the LISS panel (with its rich information on personality) and the CBS microdata offer a powerful examination of who remains childless and why within a contemporary cohort of Dutch adults.


Dr. Katya Ivanova is a family sociologist. Her primary research interests focus on the impact which recent, substantial shifts in family life (increase in divorce and repartnering, choosing not to have children) have on individual well-being and intergenerational ties (parent-child relationships). Dr. Ivanova is also interested in how gender can shape the repercussions of increasing family diversity (for example – the unique role of stepmothers in stepfamilies).

Dr. Manon van Scheppingen is a personality psychologist, who focuses on one of the big questions in personality psychology: why do our personalities change across the lifespan?  She particularly focuses on adult personality development in the context of close relationships and major life events (e.g., marrying, becoming a parent). Dr. Van Scheppingen is specialized in latent growth curve models and uses large longitudinal samples to answer her research questions.


Project duration: 2020 - 2021

Cross-cutting themes

The Herbert Simon Research Institute for Health, Well-being, and Adaptiveness is a research center devoted to carrying out excellent, state of the art research in order to contribute to healthy and resilient people. We have selected three themes, which involve the collaboration between various Departments  and address actual themes in need of both fundamental and applied research.