Desire for additional children

The number or percent of women (or men) of reproductive age who want to have a (another) child or, conversely, who do not want to have additional children


Numbers or percent of respondents reporting that additional children are/are not desired


Population-based surveys or facility-based data


This indicator is widely used in surveys to identify both: (1) women (or men) with a demand for additional children and (2) those who do not desire additional children and thus have an apparent need/demand for fertility limitation. In the DHS, non-pregnant women married or in union are asked, "Would you like to have a (another) child or would you prefer not to have any (more) children?" Women who are pregnant (or uncertain of their status) at the time of the survey are asked, "After the child you are expecting, would you like to have another child or would you prefer not to have any more children?" On the basis of responses to these questions, evaluators may divide respondents into two categories: those desiring additional children and those desiring to terminate childbearing, with women in the latter category considered as having a "demand for family planning."

Evaluators may also combine responses to this type of question with information on current fecundity and contraceptive use to assess the level of unmet need for family planning. Comparable information may sometimes be available from service statistics of clinic-based family planning programs. Questions similar to those included in the DHS are often asked of (at minimum) new clients in order to determine the appropriateness of different contraceptive methods in relation to reproductive intentions: that is, methods appropriate for limiting versus spacing.


Despite earlier concerns as to the validity of survey questions of this type in predicting actual fertility behavior, several studies have provided rather convincing evidence of strong aggregate-level associations between expressed desires for additional children on the one hand and patterns of current contraceptive use and current and future fertility on the other (Bongaarts, 1990; Westoff, 1991). The indicator is currently viewed as relatively unbiased, because respondents have no obvious reasons to over- or under-report preferences to continue childbearing.


family planning
Filed under: