Men's knowledge, attitudes and behaviours relating to fertility

Karin Hammarberg, Veronica Collins, Carol Holden, Kate Young, Robert McLachlan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


The increasingly common practice in high-income countries to delay childbearing to the fourth and fifth decades of life increases the risk of involuntary childlessness or having fewer children than desired. Older age also increases the risk of age-related infertility, the need for ART to conceive, and obstetric and neonatal complications. Existing research relating to childbearing focusses almost exclusively on women, and in public discourse declining fertility rates are often assumed to be the result of women delaying childbearing to pursue other life goals such as a career and travel. However, evidence suggests that the lack of a partner or a partner willing to commit to parenthood is the main reason for later childbearing.
To better understand men's contributions to childbearing decisions and outcomes, the literature pertaining to men's fertility-related knowledge, attitudes and behaviours was reviewed.
The electronic databases of Medline, Embase and PsycINFO were searched to identify investigations of men's knowledge, attitudes and behaviours relating to fertility, infertility, reproductive health or childbearing using relevant fertility keyword search terms. Studies were included if they had investigated factors associated with men's fertility-related knowledge, attitudes and behaviours, had been conducted in a high-income country and were published in an English language peer-reviewed journal between January 2005 and August 2016.
The search yielded 1349 citations. Of these, 47 papers representing 43 unique studies were included in the review. Where response rate was reported, it ranged between 13 and 94%. Studies varied in terms of research design; inclusion and exclusion criteria; recruitment strategies; adequacy of sample size; recruitment and retention rates and data collection tools. However, findings were consistent and indicate that men almost universally value parenthood, want and expect to become fathers, and aspire to have at least two children. Yet most men have inadequate knowledge about the limitations of female and male fertility and overestimate the chance of spontaneous and assisted conception. Perceptions of ideal circumstances in which to have children included being in a stable and loving relationship, having completed studies, secured a permanent job and a dependable income, having achieved personal maturity, and having a partner who desires children and is ‘suitable’ as a potential co-parent. Although all studies were conducted in high-income countries, between-country social and cultural differences may have influenced the findings relating to attitudes.
Men aspire to parenthood as much as women do but have limited knowledge about the factors that influence fertility. The gap between ideal biological and ideal social age for having children appears to be widening, narrowing the time frame in which parenthood can be achieved. This may lead to unfulfilled parenthood aspirations. The findings can inform government policies and public education strategies aimed to support childbearing during the most fertile years, reduce the personal and societal cost of infertility and ART use, and allow people to fulfil their parenthood goals.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)458-480
Number of pages23
JournalHuman Reproduction Update
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2017


  • Attitudes
  • Behaviours
  • Childbearing
  • Fertility
  • Knowledge
  • Male
  • Parenthood

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