Gender roles perceptions and ideal number of children: case study of Emirati youth

Ankita Shukla, Tatiana Karabchuk, Latifa Mohammed Al Neyadi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Background: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a traditional society with patriarchal values. The country has been experiencing a decline in fertility rates, bringing the total fertility rate for the national population to 3.3 children per woman, the lowest since 1970s. Existing literature indicates that having gender-egalitarian attitudes is associated with lower fertility rates. Therefore, this study aims to investigate the perceptions of gender roles among the highly educated Emirati youth and examine whether these attitudes influence their desire to have children. By doing so, we aim to gain insights into the factors contributing to the country’s declining fertility rates. Methods: This study utilized data from a cross-sectional quantitative survey. The survey was developed and administered in February–March 2019 to a purposive sample of 300 young Emirati males and females aged 18–30 years, studying at the UAE University. Both bivariate and multivariate analysis were performed to examine the levels of youths’ perception towards gender roles and desired fertility. Results: The data collected from Emirati youths revealed that 50% of them supported the traditional perspective on marriage, 30% considered motherhood is the most important thing for women, and a small percentage supported economic independence of women and husband participation in household chores/child-rearing. On average Emirati youth ideally wished to have 5.4 children in their future families, with a preference for sons over daughters. Youths who favoured women’s economic independence and equal participation in household work contribution by spouses desired a lower number of children which is in line with the modernization theory and cultural evolution. Conclusion: The UAE has been facing continuous decline in fertility rates. The study indicates that ideal number of children is much higher than the current fertility rates in the country. To bridge this gap, the government could implement family policies that create an environment conducive to fulfilling the ideal desires of young Emiratis regarding family size. Moreover, present findings indicate that perceptions of equal gender roles could be a contributing factor to the declining fertility rates among the young generation. Promoting gender equality attitudes and strengthening institutional support for childbearing could become key strategy to address these issues.

Original languageEnglish
Article number138
JournalReproductive Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


  • Fertility
  • Gender equality attitudes
  • Gender roles
  • Ideal number of children
  • Youth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology


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