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Many believe the primary role in life is to settle down and have children. The present study focuses on understanding what can influence a person’s choice to have children. With a wide variety of childhood experiences that exist, as well as the influences of an optimism/pessimism attitude about life, this study will focus on how these characteristics can combine to influence one’s decision to have children.

According to McDonnell (2012), many of those who experienced an unstable or undesirable childhood grow up wanting no children as a way to not repeat the cycle. Meanwhile, some who experienced adversity in childhood seek parenthood as a way to do the opposite of what they experienced, and effort to provide better for their children. What differentiates these responses may have to do with general attitude about the world.

Individuals vary on their optimism-pessimism level. Evidence has been found that show optimism and pessimism to exist on a singular, bi-polar spectrum (Marshall, Wortman, Kusulas, Hervig, & Vickers, 1992); high optimism equates to a low level of pessimism and vice versa.

Studies have also shown that childhood adversities can play a large role when it comes to adulthood dispositional optimism (Korkeila et al, 2004). It is clear, then that childhood experiences, optimism-pessimism, and desire to have children are all somehow interconnected; these relationships suggests the following hypotheses: 1) Adults who had little or no adversity in childhood will desire to have children, independent of their levels of optimism/pessimism; and 2) Adults who did experience childhood adversity only will desire to have children if they are also high in levels of general optimism.



Faculty Advisor

Ian Madfes, Ph.D.

Publication Date

Spring 2017


San Rafael, CA


Parental Desires, Wanting to Parent, Deciding to Become a Parent


Personality and Social Contexts

Effects of Childhood Experiences on Adult Desire to Parent