Every human being in every society results from reproduction, and most American men and women will have a child at some point in their lives. Even those who do not want children must contend with strong cultural presumptions around parenthood, and if they are sexually active, take steps to ensure they do not reproduce. In this review, I examine how reproduction has been conceptualized by social scientists and discuss recent research on pregnancy, birth, abortion, contraception, infertility, and assisted reproduction. I argue that reproduction has been defined as a series of events that occur primarily in women’s bodies. To stimulate theoretical and empirical research in this area, I develop a new conceptualization of reproduction as a biological and social process. I conclude by pointing to areas in need of further research, including reproductive age, men, and the integration of qualitative and quantitative research.
Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Sociology Volume 41 is July 30, 2015. Please see http://www.annualreviews.org/catalog/pubdates.aspx for revised estimates.