Step 1: Start a career.
Step 2: Start a family.
At least, that’s how many of Australia’s university students see it. What’s a bit wonky is where these steps fall on their timeline. While most of these students aim to stabilize their careers before parenthood, they also are unaware of exactly when female and male fertility starts to tank.
Researchers were able to gather answers from 1,215 Australian university students through online questionnaires about their fertility knowledge and family plans. The resulting study revealed that fertility fact-wise, their knowledge was lacking. Only about 38 percent of men and 45 percent of women participants knew that female fertility starts to decline between the ages of 35 and 39. Even less realized that male fertility starts to decline between the ages of 45 and 49.
However, despite their lack of knowledge, these university students expressed a clear desire for a future family. In fact, out of those who wanted children, 75 percent wanted two or more kids. The minority 10 percent were those who didn’t want children at all. Additionally, university students highly rated the importance of reaching a satisfactory level of maturity and finding a trustworthy partner with whom to share responsibility. That’s about 90 percent of both male and female students claiming that they wanted these three things:
But they don’t know the age they should acquire those three things before their fertility declines.
Honorable mention: Financial security
Eugene Prior, the author of the study, worries that the students have “unrealistic expectations” of what they hope to achieve before parenthood. Everyone wants to do well. Many of these students probably want to be paid more than minimum wage before they have kids.
If you’re aiming high, how long will it really take to be promoted to your ideal position? How long until you’re paid enough, satisfied enough with your career? What if you can’t fit it all in before your fertility declines? The answer: doesn’t matter, but you might need to plan goals around ideal biological fertility frames. Just saying.
Prior warns that the unrealistic expectations (too many goals, too ideal goals) and lack of fertility knowledge are indicators of information that needs to be made more public. “We need to educate young people about the limits of fertility and support them to become parents at a point that is ideal biologically, while balanced against the life goals they want to achieve,” he says.
While many male and female students wanted to start families within their ideal fertility window, they also had big enough life goals that the researchers questioned whether or not they would actually be able to finish everything before fertility started declining.
While this study focuses on Australian university students, other university students across the globe could benefit from the study’s findings. Regardless of what country you come from, universities are where students often come to hone their skills for the job market. In the United States, the increasingly competitive job market and the increasingly expensive cost college tuition drives the stakes higher for American university students.
Naturally, statistics aren’t going to be the same for university students from the United States due to cultural, economic, and political factors that differ from those in Australia. However, if you want to start a family, Prior’s advice for planning around your career and financial goals is relevant. You can wait, but keep informed!