Emotional Variation and Fertility Behavior

Abstract

Emotional influences on fertility behaviors are an understudied topic that may offer a clear explanation of why many couples choose to have children even when childbearing is not economically rational. With setting-specific measures of the husband-wife emotional bond appropriate for large-scale population research matched with data from a long-term panel study, we have the empirical tools to provide a test of the influence of emotional factors on contraceptive use to limit fertility. This article presents those tests. We use long-term, multilevel community and family panel data to demonstrate that the variance in levels of husband-wife emotional bond is significantly associated with their subsequent use of contraception to avert births. We discuss the wide-ranging implications of this intriguing new result.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Man is a Nepali word that represents both the heart and mind; it does not directly translate into English.

  2. 2.

    Individuals who moved out of the study area were tracked and interviewed throughout this period.

  3. 3.

    In supplementary models, we limited the analytic sample to married women who had never used contraception at the time of the survey. The results were consistent with those produced in the analyses shown here, confirming that prior contraceptive use is not what is driving both the strength of the couple’s emotional bond and their subsequent uptake of contraception.

  4. 4.

    Although it may appear that the discrete-time method of creating multiple person-months for each individual inflates the sample size resulting in artificially deflated standard errors, this is not the case (Allison 1982, 1984; Petersen 1986, 1991). In fact, the estimated standard errors are consistent estimators of the true standard errors (Allison 1982:82).

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Acknowledgments

This research was jointly supported by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (R01HD32912 and R03HD055976) and the Fogarty International Center (5D43TW000657). The authors thank Cathy Sun for assistance with data management and analyses, the research staff at the Institute for Social and Environmental Research in Nepal for collecting the data reported here, and the CVFS respondents who continuously welcome us into their homes and share their invaluable experiences, opinions, and thoughts. All errors and omissions remain the responsibility of the authors. Conflict of interest: Dr. Ghimire is also the Director of the Institute for Social and Environmental Research in Nepal (ISER-N) that collected the data for the research reported here. Dr. Ghimire’s conflict of interest management plan is approved and monitored by the Regents of the University of Michigan.

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Axinn, W.G., Ghimire, D.J. & Smith-Greenaway, E. Emotional Variation and Fertility Behavior. Demography 54, 437–458 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13524-017-0555-5

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Keywords

  • Fertility limitation
  • Spousal emotions
  • Contraceptive use
  • Family change