Marie-Caroline Compans

Phd Student
marie-caroline.compans@ined.fr
Secretariat : Sorya Le Forestier +33(0)1 56 06 20 09

Research field(s)

Thesis' title: "For Whom the Clock Tolls? Becoming a late father or a late mother facing norms and age"

Supervisors : Elise de La Rochebrochard (Inserm, Ined, Université Paris-Saclay) and
Arnaud Régnier-Loilier (Ined)


Summary :

Since the 1980s, there is an upward trend in late fertility in Western countries.
There are also more and more first births. Yet, with age, difficulties in conceiving and the likelihood
of remaining childless increase, especially for women.

I focus on late first births, in the French context which is characterised by a strong parental norm.
While the study of fertility often focuses on motherhood, this research also investigates late first
fatherhood.

Firstly, this thesis starts questioning thresholds for defining a late age at first birth, the ages of
35 for women and age 38 for men being used.

Defined that way, one could understand a late entry into parenthood as an ambivalent relationship
with norms: on the one hand, one could consider late motherhood and late fatherhood as a chosen
deviation from the procreative norm, in relation to the ‘right age’ to conceive.
On the other hand, one could perceived them as a product of the normative framework that defines
the ‘right conditions’ prior to the arrival of a child.

This ambivalence is first noticeable through a textual analysis of a corpus of media. The objective is,
then, to understand the increase in late first births according to gender, education as well as
professional and partnership pathways.

To do this, I use qualitative (a corpus of 20 interviewed individuals and a corpus of 137 publications
from online medias) and quantitative materials and methods – EDP (Insee, 2016) and
Épic survey (Ined-Insee, 2013–2014).

Thus, I show that while the people with the most cultural and social resources not only are those
who postpone entry into parenthood the most, but are also groups that manage to renegotiate with
norms. The analysis of catching-up on a first birth at late reproductive ages is, then, an
opportunity to see how unequal gender and social relations unfold in the access to parental status.