These factors all helped to contribute to the decline of children being born by giving women other possibilities than the life usually set out for them in the past, such as pursuit of a career and therefore childbearing is delayed or they do not have children at all, this is shown by 1 in 5 women aged 45 being childless in 2006, double the number 20 years earlier. Another reason is the decline in the infant mortality rate, which is the number of infants who die before their first birthday per 1000 babies born alive, per year.
Many argue that this decline leads to a fall in the birth rate because many parents have more children if one dies to replace those lost, thereby increasing birth rate. The reasons for the IMR rate falling in recent times include; * Improved housing/better sanitation, for example there is regular clean drinking water available, toilets can be flushed and there is reduced infectious diseases. Children have a less developed immune system and therefore are more susceptible to disease.
The medical profession had a big impact through its campaigns to improve public health but until the mid 20th century, it is doubtful it had an impact through direct medical factors. However the late 1950’s began to bring a wealth of medical knowledge and then played a larger role in the IMR, with mass immunisation against childhood diseases such as measles, the use of antibiotics to fight infection, and improved midwifery all contributing. Children have become an economic liability because of their inability to work at an early age, making them dependent on their parents.
The reasons for this are that laws have been brought in banning child labour, introducing compulsory schooling and school leaving age and also a change in social norms, with changes in what children have a right to expect from their parents in material terms affecting how children are raised, this means that parents may feel less able or willing to have a large family like in the past. Also, society has become child centred and childhood has become socially constructed to be an important period in a person’s life and therefore family size has decreased due to the need for ‘quality’ not ‘quantity’.
Fertility rate refers to the number of children that women of childbearing age have in any one year. This rate has generally declined over the past 100 years with just 54. 5 per 1000 in 2001 compared to 115 per 1000 in 1900. Fertility rate can also be measured by examining the Total Fertility Rate, meaning the total number of children born to an average woman during her childbearing life. Recent statistics have also shown that women are giving birth later on in their lives with the highest fertility rate in the age group 30 to 40 and the number of children born to woman aged 40 and over has doubled in the last 20 years.