Ideal family: one boy, one girl

Dutch and Surinamese couples who want children do not have a preference for a son or a daughter, and ideally would like one of each. Turkish couples on the other hand have a clear preference for boys.

Third child or not?

Statistics Netherlands has examined family formation of parents who had their first baby in the last 18 years.

Regardless of whether their first baby was a boy or a girl, 50 percent of Dutch native mothers had a second baby. Once she has two children, the sex of these children is one of the determining factors for whether she will have a third. If she has two boys, the chance of her having another baby is 25 percent., the same as for a mother with two girls. If she already has a girl and a boy however, the chance of another baby is 20 percent.

It is not the sex of the children, but the variation therein that is important in this respect; if parents have only boys, they will go on to try for a girl, if they have daughters they will try again for a son. If they already have a boy and a girl, there is a greater chance that no third child will be born.

Chances of having a third child: Dutch native and Surinamese mothers

Surinamese parents resemble Dutch parents

Surinamese parents share the preference of native Dutch parents for a family with a boy and a girl. The preference is even more pronounced: 30 percent of Surinamese couples with a boy and a girl have another baby, while if they have two girls, 40 percent go for a third baby.

Turkish parents want sons

Turkish parents do not share the desire for a boy and girl. They prefer sons. If they have two girls, 50 percent go on to try for a boy. If they already have two boys, 35 percent go on to have a third baby.

Moroccan parents have more sons

Moroccan parents do not express a preference for boys or girls: 45 percent of couples go on to have a third child, whether they have two boys, two girls, or one of each. Moroccan parents have more children, and therefore have more chance of at least one boy anyway.

Chances of having a third child: Turkish and Moroccan mothers

Fourth children

The differences in strategic fertility behaviour for native and foreign parents continue for the fourth child as well. Dutch and Surinamese mothers with three girls or three boys have a greater chance of having a fourth baby. Sixty-five percent of Turkish women with three daughters have a fourth baby, compared with 45 to 50 percent of women with one or two boys. Moroccan women manifest less strategic behaviour: regardless of the sexes of their three children, the chances of their having a fourth are similar (ranging from 65 to 70 percent).

Andries de Jong