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Family Size, Sex Composition of Children and Contraceptive Use: A Case Study of Kerala


Suchindran, Chirayath M.; Ramakumar, R.; & Devi, K. Sathi (1993). Family Size, Sex Composition of Children and Contraceptive Use: A Case Study of Kerala. Genus, 49(1-2), 165-180.


With the sudden decline of fertility it was particularly interesting to examine the situation in Kerala, regarding parental sex preference in formulating family planning policies for the rest of India with high fertility and son preference. The 1980 Kerala Fertility Survey included nearly 3000 households with about 2700 ever married women in reproductive age. Maternity history and fertility regulation data were collected. Data from 2500 currently married women were used, cross-classified by the number of male and female living children and contraceptive use status. A multiplicative model was used to study various interaction effects and to construct standardized rates of contraceptive use. Measures adjusted for both male and female composition and differential use of contraceptives among male-female combinations were obtained by the model to avoid arbitrariness in choosing rates and to preclude objections raised in previous research on Arnold's index. The model was generalized to facilitate simultaneous effects of the number of male and female children and family size on contraceptive use. Initial analysis showed that the effect of sex preference on contraceptive acceptance was rather negligible. However, there was a significant male-female interaction effect on contraceptive use. Contraception was high when the family size was large, with children of the same sex. With the effect of family size removed, the contraceptive use rate seemed to be in the inverse direction of the number of male or female children. This was possibly the result of two factors: 1) high contraception rate with large families of the same sex, and 2) low use of contraception among large families with a high number of children of both sexes. The Kerala situation partly supports McClelland's theory that couples already having proportionally more daughters may terminate fertility earlier. In Kerala such termination also occurs when couples have proportionally more sons, and family size also plays an important role in fertility cessation.


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Suchindran, Chirayath M.
Ramakumar, R.
Devi, K. Sathi