Published: July 27, 2021

Lazzari, E., Gray, E., & Baffour, B. (2021). ‘A Dyadic Approach to the Study of Perceived Infertility and Contraceptive Use’, Life Course Centre Working Paper Series, 2021-13. Institute for Social Science Research, The University of Queensland.


Ester Lazzari, Edith Gray, and Bernard Baffour.

Download: Life Course Centre Working Paper 2021-13

Non-technical summary:

There is an increasing literature on women’s perception of infertility and contraceptive use, with studies suggesting that it is related to unintended pregnancy. Little research investigates the correlates of perceived infertility, and quantitative investigation of couple-level perceived infertility appears absent from the literature, which is somewhat surprising, as infertility is a couple-level outcome. Furthermore, studies that relate to perceived infertility and use of contraception, or lack thereof, are typically limited to young adults. The present study aims to answer the following two research questions: (a) Are the factors that affect the perception of infertility among couples gendered? and (b) To what extent the perception of infertility affects contraceptive use? Drawing from previous literature, the factors associated with the perception of infertility are grouped in two main categories: biological factors (such as age and perceived health status) and life-course interference factors (such as the desire and intention to have children, parity status and type of relationship). Using data sourced from the Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey, binary and multinomial logistic regression models are estimated to analyse the association between these two groups of variables with perceived infertility and the association of perceived infertility with contraceptive use among 1,654 couples. The results indicate that both biological and life-course interference factors are strong predictors of the perception of infertility at the couple level and that women’s characteristics are more influential than their partners’ characteristics in determining this perception. Additionally, couples with perceived infertility are less likely to use contraception, regardless of their short-term intention and desire to have children. This is the first paper to explore factors associated with perceived infertility using dyads rather than individuals as the unit of analysis and to provide a detailed analysis of an unexplored yet relevant reason why couples do not use contraception (the perception of infertility) among a nationally representative sample of couples.