Count this as negligent parenting

How do we conceptualize having children?

How do you have children? In everyday life, the answer is sex - pregnancies result from sexual intercourse and fertilization. Social science studies, on the other hand, attribute them to (rational) decision-making by couples. 'Fertility intentions' are subject to this, to which a corresponding 'fertility behavior' corresponds. Rational choice and cognitive psychological approaches form the theoretical basis. The essay will question this model formation, since it not only empirically excludes having children in its everyday complexity, but also normatively idealizes it and thereby misses its social stubbornness. On the basis of narrative interviews of a selected case, we present an analysis based on praxeological premises, which not only includes actors but also their bodies and artefacts involved in the event. This shows how the intimate couple discourse is intertwined with the physical-sexual level of the couple relationship, while the participants increasingly anticipate themselves as parents.

How do couples come to have children? The first response that comes to mind is that pregnancies result from sexual intercourse and fertilization. Studies in the social sciences, however, reduce pregnancies to the (rational) decision-based action of couples: "fertility intentions" induce the corresponding "fertility behavior." Rational choice theory and cognitive psychology constitute the theoretical basis for this kind of model construction. This article challenges these approaches. Not only do they leave aside actual pathways to parenthood in all their empirical complexity. They also idealize these processes normatively and miss the logic of “having a child” as a social practice. Based on narrative interviews, we present a praxiologically oriented analysis which includes actors as well as their bodies and the artefacts involved in the process. This reveals that the way a couple deals with the topic is interwoven with the bodily and sexual dimension of their relationship as participants progressively come to anticipate themselves as parents.


This essay is a contribution to the sociological understanding of the early social processes from which (possible) parents-to-be emerge. Our everyday knowledge of having children is primarily biologically shaped. We think of processes like pregnancy and childbirth that result from sexual intercourse - the “most natural thing in the world” - and that we assign to the subject area of ​​medicine. Pregnancy has not appeared on the sociological scene for a long time or only came under the aspect of it Medicalization into focus (e.g. Duden 1991). Contributions to a socio-theoretical foundation of pregnancy and childbirth as genuinely social events have only emerged in recent years (cf. Hirschauer et al. 2014; Villa et al. 2011). We concentrate on a phase of couple relationships that seamlessly precedes these phenomena. How do couples get pregnant and how do we social scientists imagine this process? Answers to this question have so far come from studies whose common goal is to explain “generative behavior”. They are based on the concept of fertility, i. H. the question of whether, when and under what conditions women (will) have how many children.

As a follow-up to earlier studies that were driven by concerns about the threat of overpopulation (including Mackenroth 1953), it has been the long-term demographic change towards low birth rates in the last few decades (cf. Bujard 2015) that has mainly been quantitative studies from various social science disciplines Searches for determinants of the fertility of a society (cf. the review by Balbo et al. 2013). Today, this search takes place primarily through modeling at the micro level. A style of thinking has become established that places having children in modern times under the premises of individualization theory (cf. Beck & Beck-Gernsheim 1994) and presupposes it as behavior based on “planning and decision-making” (cf. Feldhaus & Huinink 2005: 195) . Research is thus primarily focused on two goals: the development of sophisticated instruments for measuring the desire to have children, fertility intentions and decision-making criteria, as well as the determination of external factors that favor or prevent their implementation. With recourse to the rational choice paradigm and cognitive-psychological approaches, fertility is modeled in accordance with decision-making theory.

We question the empirical adequacy of this causal linear modeling and confront it with the everyday complexity of having children. This leads us to the conclusion that fertility research not only empirically excludes constitutive processes of the phenomenon, but also idealizes them normatively. A sociological analysis of having children that is appropriate to the subject must, on the one hand, take a look at its specific communication, i.e. forms of thematization or discussion of having children within the couple. On the other hand, it must take into account the physical-material dimension that characterizes the phenomenon. This calls for a microsociologically based communication concept that goes beyond language and takes into account not only actors but also their bodies and artefacts involved in what is happening. It can be observed how the intimate couple discourse is intertwined with the physical-sexual level of the couple relationship, while the participants increasingly anticipate each other as parents of a common child.

In section 1 we present the basic principles of theoretical modeling in fertility research and critically examine its central arguments. With a few exceptions, the research, which is quantitative, aims to capture having children as context-reduced as possible within the framework of general, largely subject-abstract models as decision-making. Alternatively, in Section 2 we take an ethnographic look at the phenomenon that having children is considered genuine social practice understands in the context of couple relationships. Using excerpts from three narrative interviews in an exemplary selected case, we present specific properties of the phenomenon and some of its central unique selling points. In Section 3 we discuss, in contrast to mentalistic models, which social-theoretical gains are achieved by a praxeological perspective that relies on the development of complexity and microsociological detailing .

1 Fertility intention and fertility behavior: a state of research

The fertility studies come from three branches of science: (1) The Demographics uses surveys to forecast and assess the impact of population development (e.g. Philipov et al. 2015). (2) The Family sociology examines biographical planning processes and social conditions that influence fertility decisions. The German PAIRFAM relationship and family panel (cf. Huinink et al. 2011), an interdisciplinary study which, among other things, reacts to a lack of quantitative longitudinal data. busy with starting a family and their decision-making processes. (3) The focus of the Reproductive Health Studies (for the FRG including Helfferich 2013) is v. a. in contraceptive behavior, pregnancy planning and dealing with termination decisions. The findings flow into the practical advisory work.[1]

1.1 Expectant parenthood as a consequence of rational decision-making processes

Two theoretical approaches to explain generative behavior dominate within the fertility studies: The rational choice approach and the "Theory of Planned Behavior" (Ajzen 1991). In family sociology, the rational choice approach (cf. Becker 1992) is mainly used, the microeconomic core of which has been expanded by concepts of limited rationality (e.g. Esser 1990).[2] They say that actors individually assess societal opportunities and restrictions and develop their preferences based on them.[3] The concept of welfare production was also dimensioned on the basis of the assumption that the not fully anticipated future with child overtaxes the actors in their cost-benefit calculations and that they therefore fall back on further decision-making criteria (feelings, norms, etc.). The theoretical basis is provided by the value-of-children approach (cf. Hoffman & Hoffman 1973; Nauck 2001), which refers to the social and psychological “benefit” of children.

With reference to the individual biographical challenges of modern society, the fertility decision is presented as an “extremely complex social phenomenon” (Rille-Pfeiffer 2010: 179; cf. Huinink et al. 2011) and “as a string of different individual decisions” (Rille-Pfeiffer 2010: 74, see Birg et al. 1991). This calls for well-founded explanations of individual or dyadic fertility decisions in the context of their social framework. The microfoundation, which has also found its way into demography (cf. Liefbroer et al. 2015), is achieved using the multi-level model according to Coleman (1990) in order to reconstruct the fertility rate of a population as an aggregate of fertility behavior at the individual level (cf. Huinink 2006: 216; Brüderl 2006).

The interweaving of areas and goals of life also requires an interdisciplinary orientation of research in order to guarantee “a differentiated dynamic modeling of individual decision-making processes as well as couple-related and intra-family development processes” (Huinink 2006: 241). The PAIRFAM panel extends Coleman’s model by a “pico level” (Feldhaus & Huinink 2005: 199) in order to be able to record personality traits as factors influencing the individual decision to become a parent. To this end, approaches from developmental and cognitive psychology are included.

This leads to the second central theoretical model of research on fertility, which has achieved prominence in demographic studies: The "Theory of Planned Behavior" (TPB) by Ajzen (1991), an initially "empty theory" (Ajzen 2011: 64), which, however, is well suited for analyzing fertility decisions (cf. Ajzen & Klobas 2013). The focus of the cognitive psychological approach is the fertility intention, which is determined by the attitude that the person concerned has towards their own (future) children, by the subjective norms of their relevant caregivers, and by the subjectively perceived probability of being able to implement their fertility intentions. The intention generated in this way is considered to be a predictor of a corresponding (proceptive or contraceptive) fertility behavior (cf. Ajzen & Klobas 2013; Philipov et al. 2015). With the TPB, demographics want to explain why some people convert their reproductive intention into adequate fertility behavior, while others fail to realize it.[4]

The reproductive health studies, on the other hand, work neither with economic nor with cognitive psychological explanatory models. They are based on the internationally used standard categories (cf. London et al. 1995) "intended", "mistimed" (earlier than wanted) and "unwanted", with which pregnancies are classified. Nevertheless, research on reproductive health also relies on the correlation between the intention to conceive and contraceptive behavior - and thus follows a behavioral expectation that is essentially subject to both the TPB and the RC paradigm. So write z. B. Helfferich et al. (2005: 215) based their quantitative study on two thirds of pregnancies with a "rational history of development", on the grounds that "they were wanted at the time, contraception was omitted and the pregnancy that had occurred was happily welcomed and carried to term".

The subject of the discussions, however, are recurring findings that contradict the expected causal relationship between fertility intention and behavior. Either the intended and actually realized number of children differ (e.g. Philipov 2011), or the study participants give e.g. For example, in the questionnaire, the pregnancy was not intended but was welcomed with joy or the pregnancy was intended despite contraception (Trussell et al. 1999). Helfferich & Kandt (1996: 72) speak of “inconsistencies between planning behavior and contraceptive behavior.” The following conclusions were drawn from this: In the context of family sociology, e.g. B. Feldhaus & Boehnke (2008: 1690) retrospective designs because they produce post-hoc rationalizations and thus “falsified” statements about pregnancy planning.[5] In demography, inter alia criticized the conceptual operationalization of fertility intention in the questionnaires as being too inconsistent (as a wish, expectation, plan or intention) because the respondents were unable to differentiate between the concepts (cf. Philipov & Bernardi 2011). In the context of Reproductive Health Studies, Helfferich (2003) asks whether the ability to plan pregnancies is a "myth" because pregnancies are possibly not so much affected by the modern demands of rational life planning, but rather in the idea of ​​family as " Gegenwelt “(Helfferich 2003: 199) are to be located. The classification of pregnancies (intended, mistimed, unwanted) is also criticized as too narrow because it simplifies the fertility decision too much. Intentions have to be understood “multidimensionally” (cf. Santelli et al. 2009). Quantitatively oriented studies try to dimension the intention concept accordingly and to operationalize and measure not only cognitive, but also affective and cultural aspects. The aim is "to resolve inconsistencies between intentions and contraceptive use." (Santelli et al. 2009: 97) Qualitative studies work with type formation: Helfferich et al. (2014) split the item “unwanted” into four types, Earle (2004) filters out “planning types” from the narratives, although it is difficult to determine when a pregnancy is clearly unplanned. However, inconsistencies between fertility intention and behavior have also stimulated concepts of ambivalence: Bernardi et al. (2015) created a six-level classification of intentions based on a content analysis of their interviews. Women who did not say a clear yes or no to the child question fell into the categories of “indifference”, “contingency” or “ambivalence”. Pinquart et al. (2010: 85, cf. 98) define ambivalence as an “approach-avoidance conflict” that hinders rational weighing. A connection between neuroticism and ambivalence can be ascertained, since problems of emotion regulation can be identified in both cases.

Another challenge in fertility research is to understand how fertility decisions are made in relation to partner dependency, i.e. to locate them more closely at the level of the couple. Is examined z. B. the degree of agreement of the partners: The couples are instructed to fill out the questionnaire at the same time and separately from one another in order to prevent mutual interference (Stöbel-Richter et al. 2006: 49). In the PAIRFAM panel, Feldhaus & Huinink base the couple decision on the model of “dyadic interdependence of subjective-situational motive structures”, which means “that two actors represent each other in their actions as part of the action situation”.[6] Dyadic decision-making in demography is conceived in a similar way: Philipov et al. (2015), based on the theory of planned behavior (Ajzen 1991), ask about the (assumed) attitude of the partner, assuming that this serves as a normative reference for the respondents. In addition to works that assume a couple consensus (e.g. Kuhnt 2013), other authors assume divergent intentions and devote themselves to the modes of negotiation. Bauer & Kneip (2013) come to the conclusion that the partner who fears the costs of children can veto the wishes of the other effectively.

Finally, there is still a few qualitative studies to point out: Borchart & Stöbel-Richter (2004) conducted individual interviews with the partners in order to interpretively reconstruct their subjective points of view. The interviews were then synthesized by the researchers into “case histories”, with the reader being deprived of any data. Rille-Pfeiffer (2010) conducts interviews with couples against the background of the question of which of the two partners is decisive for the question of children. It also starts from the premise that the dyadic decision is preceded by two (divergent) individual ones. Rijken & Knijn (2009) talk to couples and find out that the decision is usually made without much thought and that the wish often emerges together with the right partner.

1.2 Normative rationalism as a problem

Despite the reduction of the strongest assumptions of rational choice, research on fertility across disciplines is inherent in a conceptual way of thinking that we want to encompass with the term normative rationalism: The decision-theoretical background against which having children is considered in the context of the models described contains implicit normativisms, which obscure the view of the social dynamics of the phenomenon. Its sociological discovery beyond societal normative constrictions is prevented because the research follows unquestionably templates of expectations that primarily reflect social imperatives, such as "responsible parenthood" (Kaufmann 1990) or "protected" sexual intercourse. Pregnancies are precoded in binary: Planned ones and therefore assumed to be desirable are considered normal, unplanned ones should be avoided. The extent to which research is oriented towards social expectations is reflected e.g. B. in the question of how such a high proportion (up to 40%) of unplanned pregnancies can be explained in the FRG “in times of safer contraceptives” (Feldhaus & Boehnke 2008: 1682; cf. Helfferich et al. 2013: 7), or in observational statements such as "contraception is necessary and sensible when a couple has sexual intercourse but does not want a child." (Helfferich et al. 2005: 153) If the expected rationality of action does not show up in the data, then there is “distortions in the rationality of the Planning ”(Helfferich et al. 2005: 204) and it is necessary to find out why women who do not wish to have children“ do not use contraception carefully ”(Helfferich & Kandt 1996: 73).[7]

With their normative-rational background, the fertility studies move not least close to political issues: the historical development of the decline in birth rates has been declared to be a central social problem in many social and population science publications (cf. Correll 2010: 25 f.). Demography measures the biological reproduction of society and is implicitly oriented towards the normative ideal of a biological “compensation rate” that provides 2.08 children per woman for “constant reproduction” (Bujard & Diabaté 2016: 395).[8] Politicians base their family policy measures on such figures, while family sociology, for example, examines the importance of these measures for couples in their decision to start and expand a family (cf. Buhr & Huinink 2012). Conclusions on the creation of possible incentives for more pregnancies are in turn derived from their research results (cf. Buhr & Huinink 2012: 338). The addressees include above all well-trained academics who tend to have too late, too few or no children at all (cf. Bauer & Jakob 2010: 43).

Fertility research appears to be following a procreative agenda by implicitly adopting the lament of stagnating birth rates (cf. Bujard 2015). Analogous to this, research in the context of reproductive health studies is also inscribed with an interest in reproductive control, which corresponds to a striving for the protection of life. Too many abortions despite having access to reliable contraception are a public health problem that makes better sex education and advice on family planning appear necessary.[9] From a knowledge-sociological perspective, one is quite close to Foucault's analysis of the Biopower recalls (cf. Foucault 1977; Gehring 2006): Fertility research appears as a new "Scientia sexualis" (Foucault 1977: 55) that generates knowledge that can be linked to a "biopolitics of the population", the aim of which is to regulate the "generic body" (Foucault 1977: 135) is. The associated variable is sexuality, the point of attack is the reproductive behavior of the couple planning the family, which must be regulated accordingly.

On the micro level, normative rationalism comes into play insofar as the RC approach and the theory of planned behavior presuppose having children as decision-making or intended behavior. The associated reduction in complexity receives its functionality within the framework of a multi-level design (cf. Coleman 1990), which requires a clear link between fertility events (e.g. pregnancy) and actors and their attitudes or action intentions. The microanalysis is then a means to an end for a consistent aggregation of fertility decisions at the macro level (e.g. the birth rate). The claim of this approach is therefore not a sociologically penetrating understanding of having children, but only the construction of a simplified model that works within the framework of the methodological requirements, can be operationalized and is as empirically consistent as possible. This leaves the desideratum that there is currently no research program that is microanalytically devoted to having children as a social and sociologically understandable phenomenon sui generis without recourse to decision-making or behavioral approaches. In addition, it is highly questionable whether the premises contained in the models are at all qualitatively appropriate for the object in order to be able to grasp it in its specifics:

(1) Having children is reduced to a deductive formula: the fertility decision or intention (child yes / no) determines the fertility behavior (contraception yes / no), which then leads to the birth of a child or prevents it. Complexity is one-sidedly located in the fertility decision and / or intention and thereby mentally shortening having children. Desires for children or fertility intentions are localized presocially and independently of relationships via cognitive psychology in the minds of individuals or even nested biologically in their brains (cf. Miller & Pasta 1993). The associated methodological individualism misses the social dimension of the object because it does not empirically capture the communicative construction processes that take place in couple relationships. It is problematic that with this conception, fertility research implicitly projects the demands that it makes on its theoretical models (simplicity, linearity, consistency, accountability, etc.) onto the phenomenon itself: Having children becomes a reasoned (rational) decision-making behavior made. This goes hand in hand with a style of thinking that diagnoses children as "head births" (Beck-Gernsheim 1988: 163) under individualization-theoretical assumptions. With modernization, voluntary decisions have undoubtedly increased in many areas, but the empirical evidence suggests that having children does not fully fit into these lines. However, if the phenomenon is so strongly associated with decision-making, one only touches the object at its deducible edges and misses its diversity and its decision-aversive “obstinacy”.

(2) The decision-making vocabulary dominates research like a “compulsion to think” (Fleck 1980: 131), which is axiomatically maintained even against one's own contradicting findings, instead of questioning the appropriateness of the scientific 'visual apparatus'. The normative expectation style inherent in the models means that even in the event of disappointment, research adheres to its expectations and thus closes the possibility of using disappointments in order to learn from the object and to penetrate its intrinsic logic (cf. Luhmann 1990: 138).[10]

(3) With the focus on decision-making, research also misses the body-sociological relevance (cf. Gugutzer 2004) of the subject. Having children is reduced to a strangely disembodied process or it is implicitly assumed that the respondents have an instrumental way of dealing with the body that subordinates sexuality to the intention to procreate or to their contraceptive control. With this withdrawal to mental processes, the everyday practice of having children is systematically missed, as it is divided in research methodology: a spiritual sphere (ratio), which is made an object of analysis, is opposed to a physical-sexual one and subordinate, since it is understood as a biological basis under cognitive direction.

Methodically, the question arises to what extent the physical dimension of the couple relationship in the interplay of sexuality and procreation can be empirically reached at all using standardized questionnaires. Let's take a look at the questionnaires in practice below. One of its premises is that actors are in principle able to provide information about what they want (to do) at any time. This is reified by putting batteries of questions (volitional)decisions demand (respondents have to choose from a list of answers). But if the theoretical impetus is inscribed in the questions that parenthood is on decisions is based, the imperative requires one or more answers to be chosen at the same time, ascribing decisions to oneself d. H. to decide how one decided (then) or how one will decide (in the future).

The assumption of a rationally reflective approach to life issues is paradigmatically shown in the Leipzig questionnaire on the motivation to have children (Brähler et al. 2001: 98): "Everyone has already thought about their personal desire to have children." the questionnaire "does" something to its informants: it sometimes triggers decisions that the respondent might never have made tomorrow had he not decided today to make them tomorrow, precisely because the questionnaire offered him to decide today the decision to be made tomorrow. This imperative of decision can also be seen with PAIRFAM (, questionnaires: Ankerperson, Welle 6, 2013/14: 207–215): “If you ignore all obstacles, how many children would you ideally like to have in total? have? "," Are you planning to have a (further) child in the next two years? "," If you think realistically about your own (further) children, at what age do you think you will be your first or yours have next child? ”,“ Have you or your partner tried to father a child / become pregnant since the last interview? ”. Isn't this more like a kind of 'fertility implantation' that is prescribed to the actors for research purposes? For childless couples of the appropriate age, it should be the epitome of an act of “social impregnation” (Hirschauer et al. 2014: 59). The opposite is true for the question of infertility in the PAIRFAM questionnaire (Ankerperson, Welle 6, 2013/14: 206): “Some people are physically unable to have children naturally. As far as you know, would it be physically possible for you to have children or to beget children? ”This question explains the addressees as potentially impotent and contains a latent admonition to be able to find out something about it.

In the PAIRFAM module "Sexuality and contraception" (Ankerperson, Welle 6, 2013/14: 202 ff.), Respondents are asked to report how often they had sexual intercourse in the last three months, how satisfied they are with their sex life (on on a scale from 0 to 10) whether they use contraception or not, and if so, how and how consistently. They are asked whether, for how long and with what measures they are trying to father a child or bring about a pregnancy. Apparently objective data, such as the average frequency of traffic, should not be easily retrievable. Questions about satisfaction with sex life assume, on the one hand, that this is isolated from the “rest of the” relationship and that sex, procreation and couple relationships can be measured separately and independently of one another.[11] On the other hand, they demand a sufficiently clear and reflective idea of ​​“good” sexuality from the respondents. The questions are also likely to relate to very different self-relationships to sexuality (e.g. generation-related). They may match the sex of some couples, but they are far short of others.

We summarize our criticism: Fertility research would like to explain causally when and why people / couples (no) have children in order to be able to make statements about the development of fertility on a societal level. It treats future parenthood primarily in the light of its external conditions and normative circumstances (material resources, couple satisfaction, level of education, religious affiliation, etc.) under which a child is (not) desired, or under which the wish or intention (not) in the deed is implemented. So having children is seen as one of social conditions dependent Treated variable, but not as something Social in itself understood. The models geared towards decision-making offer only a narrow framework that prevents the subject of having children from being viewed under the premise of the unknown to be discovered.[12]

2 The Practice of Having Children: A Case Analysis

Using the following case study, we want to confront the research discussion on fertility with a detailed micro-analysis of the interactive and communicative dynamics of a couple on their way to pregnancy. To do this, we go to the “hot spot” of the couple to develop their social micro-logic.

2.1 Theoretical background and research strategy

Instead of a model-guided look at the data material, we rely on inductive concept formation and propose a praxeologically oriented perspective: While theories of action center around the atomistic individual who generates motives and converts them into actions, the practical theory from cultural theory goes "deeper", namely on the situated side of behavior. With practice recourse is made to the physical fulfillment of social phenomena, while Practices represent specific forms of this implementation ("ways of doing"). They do not have an author, but a sponsor or participant. This social-theoretical reorientation goes hand in hand with the abandonment of intentionalist and rationalist idealizations (Hirschauer 2016; Reckwitz 2003). The gaze shifts from internal and external requests (motives / intentions or social norms) to situational opportunities that make us do something or that suggest that something should happen. The focus is on interaction understood as socially distributed “coactivity”, in the course of which meaning only emerges and which can be fanned out into a continuum of activity levels (cf. Hirschauer 2016: 49). An actor corresponds with thisdecentering that allows bodies and artefacts to be taken into account as material “participants” in practice (cf. Hirschauer 2004). In order to be able to analyze their contribution appropriately, the sole responsibility of the actor is suspended and replaced by the distribution of “agency” over the heterogeneous carriers of a practice.[13]

With this praxeological figure of thought one can then ask: How 'goes ‘ Having children? How do couples get children or parentscouples out? Our research interest is tied to the gesture of ethnographic curiosity. The potential and the challenge of 'indigenous' ethnography lie in breaking up familiarity with one's own culture. Phenomena that we think we know very well are methodologically alienated, i. H. made a "questionable" object (cf. Amann & Hirschauer 1997: 12). The more familiar they are, the more they have to be distanced from the viewer in the form of a microscopic fine-grain analysis. The aim of an ethnographically inspired praxeological analysis is not to (causally) explain phenomena, but to explain them explicate (see Amann & Hirschauer 1997: 13).[14]

The backbone of our object-oriented analysis of the everyday practice of having children is our sociology of pregnancy (cf. Hirschauer et al. 2014). We do not view pregnancies ontically as primarily biological and 'female' bodily processes that are only flanked by social processes. This break with everyday and biomedical premises makes it possible to observe pregnancy as a genuinely social event and to ask in a sociologically informed way how bodies and artefacts are involved in it. So shows z. For example, physical changes only become signs of pregnancy in connection with expectations that are closely linked to social relationships, which then condense into a communicative fact (cf. Hirschauer et al. 2014: 41 ff.).

Regarding the research procedure: Measured against a methodological understanding that relies on clear procedural rules that are to be applied dogmatically and “cleanly”, ethnography is not a “method”, but rather sees itself as a “research strategy to empirically approach a social phenomenon in such a way that it can show the observer in his diversity, complexity and contradictions. ”(Breidenstein et al. 2013: 8 f.) In order to achieve this goal, we conducted open interviews that invite“ the development of 'inner worlds of experience' ”(Hirschauer et al . 2014: 15). Depending on the eloquence, motivation and reflexivity of our interlocutors, this could be achieved more or less without intervention and guided by dialogue. From the transcribed interviews, we developed dense descriptions of individual cases, which we subjected to contrastive analyzes. Following the research approach of Grounded Theory (Glaser & Strauss 1967), we have identified significant topics from the narratives and reconstructed key scenarios (e.g. anecdotal descriptions, the sketching of the course of certain situations, the re-enactment of discussions in the couple, etc.). However, we used the (couple) interview not only to obtain information about events, but also as an opportunity for “participatory observation” (Hirschauer et al. 2015): we always understand the statements of our informants as interaction trains. The couple not only tells us about their private life, they also let their couple relationship "also - staged or uncontrolled - take place in an interview" (Hirschauer et al. 2015: 3).

The following case is taken from a sample of 30 parenting narratives from two research projects with a total of 120 cases.[15] Qualitative data are difficult to synthesize in a space-saving way, especially in the tight framework of a journal article. Because we want to maximize the depth of fall and penetrate its complexity analytically, we chose the representation one Case decided, for which three interviews are available. Decisive for the selection was not only the strategic research value of the case, but also the data quality, which is determined by the report, the interaction skills of the interviewer and the reflective and narrative talent of the informants. Against the background of extraordinary and unusual processes of becoming parents, which characterize a large number of our cases (see Hirschauer et al. 2014) and which we have to do without here for reasons of space, the parenting of Uwe & Eva (aliases) is in its basic parameters most likely an example of an 'average' course. The case is not a spectacular exception, but is at first glance in less strong contrast to rational choice premises than other cases due to the pronounced reflexive negotiations that the couple conducts in the interview situation. Above all, however, the story of Eva and Uwe is well suited to describe and illustrate characteristics of the phenomenon that go beyond the case from the depths of the case.[16]

Eva (29, lawyer) and Uwe (34, social worker) have been a couple for 15 years. At the time of the individual interviews, Eva is 20 weeks pregnant; the couple interview takes place three months after the child is born. The series of open interviews gives us a deep insight into the dynamic interactive course of the (social) impregnation and parenting of the couple.[17]

2.2 How does the desire for children come about in the couple relationship?

At the beginning of the interview, Eva describes her biographical sense of family:

E (E): I come from a very well-functioning family, I've always noticed that the family is always there for one another. So it was always a matter of course for me that family somehow belong to it.

However, the child question only gradually emerged in the context of the long-term relationship. The first discrepancies appear:

U (E): The child has always been an issue after that no decision just for one of both is and also a very long-term or fundamental decision. (...) That was it regulary changed. When it is clear how the future can unfold, then everything somehow seems safer, then one can imagine it more easily. If the job prospects were worse, then the topic of children was also a long way off. (...) Eva was waiting to see how I degree on the subject, she just wanted children and with me it has changed. If she had spoken to me about it every other day, it is certainly not a clever strategy to provoke a change of opinion, but rather leads to a backlash that one says: 'If you now ask ten more times, then certainly not!' Hence was she very skilled at that (smiles) Clocking and in the tacticsthat she gives me the space to decide and to make friends with the thought.

Uwe's statement testifies to the interdependence that makes the desire to have children a relational matter. It has a social form, as it usually has to be addressed to someone in particular (the partner, the reproductive medicine specialist, or even to one's own body) and in this relationality it develops a dynamic that continuously affects the actors.

Eva also describes how the topic gradually picks up speed and oscillates in the course of the couple communication:

E (E): He had a phase where he said, 'no children somehow not at all, if then adopt'. And then suddenly it was 'yes, your own children after all'. (…) But for me it never really occurred to me that children were out of the question. (...) It was clear that we would finish our studies for now. He's a social worker, he had to get a job. And first of all I wanted to sort out my professional path a bit. (...) And after we've been together for so long, it was always up and down (laughs).

With Austin (1962), expressions of the desire to have children in couple relationships can be understood as performative speech acts with which the actors “do” something, namely to potentially “parent” the partner.[18] Sociologically, the desire to have children is not a permanent or even constant 'attitude' in the minds of individuals, but rather as a communicative form to understand. Only the utterance makes it social existent. This usually happens in very different ways and in different contexts: from private fantasies about the future, conversations in the context of couple communication or among friends, through allusive expectations of potential grandparents, as a treatment condition in the fertility center, to questionnaires or interviews in which "the desire to have children “Is asked.

The communication of the desire to have children (as here) can be made up of various conversations that relate, for example, to finishing your studies and your professional future.[19] Above all, however, it also consists of phases of non-thematicization, in order not to let the weight that lies in this topic put too much pressure on the relationship. So that a couple can prepare for having children together, it is less a matter of “wishing for a child”, but also of introducing and managing it in a communicative manner, precisely because it constitutes something genuinely triadic: with the child, one usually also wishes for that Partner as father or mother. However, this communication not only has the potential to unite, but also to have a great deal of potential for division - after all, relationships can also perish when trying to have children. If a child is to grow in the relationship as a shared future perspective, it is allowed to do so in many moments Not communicated. Otherwise it is the same as with many plants that die because they have been watered too much.

2.3 The Difficult Synthesis of Expectations

While Eva’s playing through the professional future keeps the child option constant, Uwe repeatedly rejects it. This irritates Eva for a short time, but she feels safe by sitting out her partner's vacillations benevolently and trusting the time that the child question will settle in her favor. When Uwe finally gives the green light to get pregnant, Eva turns the traffic light back to yellow:

E (E): When we were both at work, it went more than that him from interestingly. He said relatively quickly: 'What are we waiting for now?' And I actually needed a little more time. (...) You always have excuses, like 'now let's go on vacation and this and that', so always like 'yes after that then'. And he always: 'yes, why ?!' and I like: 'no no, cool down now!' ' (...) But then we went on another trip and> then I just stopped taking the pill <(quickly pushed it afterwards) because I didn't want to take it any more. So I don't know if it's somehow an inner instinct that says someday 'stop the hormones you've been shoveling into for 15 years' or whether that's really this internal clock that says' it's now time to end '.

The non-simultaneity of the expectation build-up leads to a situation in which he does want to and then does not want it after all. The pill stop is neither a direct reaction to Uwe's urging, nor is Eva's clear fertility intention, nor is it preceded by a joint (or even rational) decision. Such an interpretation would be hermeneutically unambiguous and methodically preventto observe precisely those contingencies and ambivalences that the participants work on here (Nassehi & Saake 2002; Hirschauer & Bergmann 2002). Eva describes stopping the pill as an ad hoc action, the meaning of which is primarily due to the interview situation. It is obviously difficult for her afterwards, as she cannot inferior to it with a clear intention (e.g. wanting to become pregnant now). A possible pregnancy confronts Eva with an uncertain future that scares her in several ways:

E (E): I didn't know what it was like to be pregnant. Will I get mega bleeding or a rash right away? I just wanted to put it off as much as possible because it's a bit scared. We are both people who actually do quite a lot, and I didn't know how connected am I then?

There are three levels of expectation that Eva refers to: She does not know (1) how she will physically react to pregnancy, (2) what it will do with her couple relationship, and also not how she (3) as a person will respond to the will be able to deal with new bonds that affect her partner on the one hand and shared responsibility for a future person on the other. However, she anticipates that her body, the couple relationship and herself will no longer be the same after entering a pregnancy or the process that is triggered by it. It's like walking through a magical gate that offers no turning back. Not just parenting, but even the anticipated parenting is subject-transformative - the actors involved do not remain the same.

Eva not only has to manage her own expectations, she also has to constantly relate to the expectations of her partner in communication, which in turn interact with her own. In addition, there are mirrored social expectations from their social environment (including allusions from siblings) that it is now about time. Eva's ambivalence is that on the one hand she does not (yet) want to meet expectations or does not want to make them her own (yet), on the other hand she does not want to disappoint them in front of herself either.

At first glance, it might seem as if Eva simply resolved these conflicting expectations into a decision to act.[20] On closer inspection, however, omitting the pill reveals itself to be a kind of “delegation” (cf. Latour 2008), which rather bypasses a process of reflection and only shifts the uncertainty inherent in it: the question of avoiding pregnancy is now shifted more towards couple interaction (condom or not) and at the same time handed over to the body. It is by no means clear to Eva whether he can get pregnant at all:

E: I've been taking the pill since I was 16, so through one incredibly long period and continuously. Usually it's very predictable everything, so the cycle. It was all like that plannable and for sure and you used so on. And then I couldn't stop myself to introducethat you can get pregnant at all, because this pill-taking is so part of everyday life that you no longer notice that you are using anything. So I was more afraid that I would no longer have children Obtain can if you take it that long.

For Eva, the pill stop is an interruption of a body routine that has been maintained for years, which is associated with great uncertainty and which she was no longer aware of as “contraception”. The great unknown is therefore not only the possible pregnancy or life with a child, but also the body that has now become alien to her, to which she sees herself at the mercy and which she first has to get to know again in its own activity: What does he do without the pill me? Will he possibly get pregnant (so) quickly that I can't keep up? Can will he even get pregnant? Eva's concern that maybe because of the long hormone intake nothing at all happens, can only arise against the background that it happens should. But because it is not equal Should happen, she just loosens the reins instead of letting them go (“I don't have to take the pill anymore, but we have to so watch out somehow "). Withdrawing the pill is just starting with stopping the contraception. The body is granted agency (“agency” in the sense of Latour 2006) insofar as it is supposed to regulate itself and prove its reproductive function, but it is not yet supposed to come into play.

The other major uncertainty concerns the future of the couple relationship. For Uwe it should triadic expansion to prevent boredom for two:

U (E): That children belong in the end also came from the feeling that nothing Important otherwise more would come that it would lead to the same thing forever. So another vacation in Asia and another surf course, which in the end doesn't turn out to be one happier or more satisfying Life would lead. I think this is an attempt to some extent importance to accomplish.

Eva, on the other hand, anticipates the "third party" at this point in time as triadic closure. It does not (yet) appear to her as a welcome new horizon of the relationship, but is rather associated with constriction, heteronomy and the loss of her freedoms:

E (E): When I stopped taking the pill, it was like a counterwho was killed because I thought, 'Oh, this is going to be serious'. That made me dance more with friends in the evenings, to sort of like them freedom to enjoy a little more. And that has Uwe again irritated and shocked (laughs).

It is noticeable that Eva only addresses the fear of infertility in the couple interview, while in the individual interview the fear of life with a child dominates. Possibly the former is easier to legitimize against Uwe than the one before the loss of freedom. These fears relate to the “parental project” (Boltanski 2007) and represent the conflict between the two (“I'm afraid of the family that will make a child out of us”). The fear of reproductive failure, on the other hand, "belly brushes" Uwe's position. However, the conflict cannot be kept latent in the couple relationship over the long term. The possible pregnancy, which Eva threatens with the pill stop, drives her to flee, which in turn leads Uwe to catch her with the moral "lasso":

E (E): There was even a very nasty, nasty accusation that he made me. I said: 'You, I need a few more months or maybe even a year'. And then he said, in his anger, whether I would prefer to have fun here now and maybe risk a not healthy child for it. Because it is said that the older, the higher the probability that something is. And then (laughs) I really swallowed.

On a larger scale, Uwe suddenly overtook Eva (zu) with his determination. In previous years it was you it, who was certain about the child's question and had 'benevolently observed' his times-so-times-so attitude. He therefore shows little understanding for her current hesitation, which was triggered by his advance.

2.4 "Distributed Action" - The participation of bodies and artifacts

After Eva has stopped the pill and left her body to its own devices, she begins to observe her cycle in order to cushion the uncertainty associated with the loss of control. She assumes that she has her body on her side as an accomplice for her wish for postponement, but it does not play to her but to Uwe:

E (E): Uwe always said after each time: 'And now you're pregnant!' (Laughs) and I: 'No, that doesn't go that fast'. Actually, I tried to be careful with temperature measurements and such. (...) So I have Not expected it then so fast happens. I thought, somehow, everything will settle for a year before something happens at all. It worked for two months and then (laughs) I was pregnant (laughs).

It is typical for pregnancy narratives that couples who renounce contraception delegate the agency to their bodies in the sense of “letting it happen” - “if it happens, then it happens” (cf. Hirschauer et al. 2014: 39). If you want to take the founding of a family into your own hands, you must to give out of hand. When it comes to expecting how long it will take to get pregnant, couples have different theories of participants ready: On the one hand, they take it for granted that their bodies basically function. On the other hand, they (like Eva) often assume that the body must first have recovered from the hormones in order to be able to become pregnant at all. Especially with the first child, if there is no experience yet, couples do not expect that it will “go that fast”. Orientation is provided, for example, by cases from friends and family, where “practicing” had to be done for a long time before it “finally worked”. With this construction, on the one hand, you protect yourself from disappointment (if it actually takes a long time), on the other hand, the disappointment of this expectation (if it then goes faster) can be celebrated all the more as a surprise.

A pregnancy falls more into the authorship of one or the other partner, depending on which of the two expresses the desire for it more strongly (as Uwe here). Eve, who did not expect her (so quickly), the pregnancy happened rather as a non-forced event. Eva's clinging to the pill and enjoying the leisure activities after weaning, however, show that she still knew that she could possibly become pregnant quickly. Both reflect the hope that what is to be expected cannot be expected immediately (“I have Not expected it then so fast happens"). This behavior contains a genuine form of ambivalence that does not consist in 'wanting one thing in one moment and the other in the next' '[21]but rather in the bivalent coexistence and the simultaneity of opposing desires and longings that are directed towards an uncertain future: towards an incalculable change in the body, the couple relationship and their actors.

The couple interview is characterized by a lively discourse of responsibility that takes place between Uwe and Eva in the interview situation, perhaps for the first time, and gives us insights into the distributed logic of pregnancy. Let's take a closer look at the interaction the couple allows us to be part of:

E: I put this into reverse gear again for myself. I stopped taking the pill, but it was clear to me now but not yet, You're welcome (laughs). I figured it could take a year for anything to happen, but it was for me beautiful aware of it can also relative fast happen. And just knowing that there could be three of you soon and that your entire life will change, I was afraid of that. That's why I thought to myself,> maybe wait a little longer <(furtively, smiles at Uwe).

U: Yeah, I can't say anything. I didn't have that in my hand (laughs).

E: (laughs)> Hmm <(ironically).

Eva's utterance seems a little guilty, like an (embarrassing) confession from which she escapes by hoping that Uwe will take the floor and subsequently give her absolution for her hesitation. However, he eludes. The interviewer then asks him explicitly how he felt Eva's postponement:

U: Irrational, so not understandable from the outside. What was particularly difficult for me personally that I - that is, after long Process and many ups and downs - decided to, but children have to want, and then there watch to have to, like the plan that I have laid out in my head is not in my hands at all. It was only then that I actually realized that family planning is a female matter in which the man is consulted (E: laughs), can participate in the best of faith and trust, but has nothing really in his hand. Just like you could have decided at any point in advance without asking me, 'I just don't take the pill anymore'. In the same way, it was your decision to say, 'I no longer take the pill, but I use other contraception'.

E: But moment now, so (laughs) Moment!

U: No, wait a minute, stop! This is not a reproach at all, just a statement. (...) It wasn't the insinuation that you did any of that made would have. It was just the statement that it as a man not in my hands would be.

Eva's attempt to maintain control over her body means for Uwe the loss of control over becoming a father. From his point of view, Eva not only pushed him away from the common, but above all from his path, which he struggled at first (“after long Process and many ups and downs ") had to find. He has his “yes” as an overcoming his Experienced ambivalence. If he now follows Eva's ambivalent hesitation, then he threatens to fall back on his old rejection of the desire to have children. He sees himself thrown back on the part of the (a little offended) spectator of an event, which he blames Eva for. This can be seen from a complex dynamic of attribution: Uwe initially attests the authorship for having children to himself. When Eva refuses, however, he makes it her business by resigningly declaring it to be “the woman”. This naturalization then also allows him to use Eva - as Mrs - to assume that you can impregnate him from behind at any time. Uwe passivates himself by giving up the position of the decision maker who now wants a child and that of a potential victim of their power to be able to subjugate a child to him at any time.

Uwe has given up responsibility for having children, but Eva keeps bringing him back on board:

U: I can only try to a certain extent preventthat you will get pregnant.

E: (laughs) By doing none Have sex with me or the other way around. You had but sex on the right day (both laugh).

U: Exactly (laughs), but that again depends on you. I can ,No‘Say, but I can't say the‚YesForce ‘. I did not want to no Children, because that would be easy then, I just say 'no, headache today' every day. But it’s the other way around Not. And I don't measure the temperature (smiles), so that's out of my reach.

Uwe, who previously presented himself as a victim of a potential female sperm robbery with reference to his gender affiliation, now (if at all) only admits passive joint responsibility for the pregnancy. Eva, on the other hand, indirectly accuses her of having impregnated her against her intention:

I: Did the temperature curve hang somewhere?

E: I had that in the bathroom. So I always thought the curve was pretty easy to read. He didn't look where I was at the curve and then said, 'now I have to go ‘(laughs). In any case, I don't know (laughing hard with a look at Uwe, who is grinning).

I: Did you talk to each other?

U: Little exchange. You informed me that you were using this method and gave me a rough interpretation guide (smiles). But I wasn't that deeply interested in it because it wasn't my plan anyway, and I let that happen. I was relatively excluded, but of my own choice. I was not kept away from the woman's secret knowledge.

I: (For both) Did you also use condoms?

E: No, that was the problem. (U: Also). Well, sporadically. I have to say there was I then too to careless. I just thought, 'Oh, nothing will happen for once'. And you but knew it was a critical phase (smiles).

U: I didn't care anyway (smiles).

E: So it was beautifulalso a little in your hand (smiles). (...) Actually a little mean because you knewthat I wanted to put it off.

U: Yes, but if the wish had been serious enough, you would have just said, 'no, not without a condom'. It is also never been so that I put you in front of the choice