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Son Preference and Child Mortality as Predictors of Parity Progression in India: Evidence from NFHS-5

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Parity progression, largely driven by son preference and child mortality, has historically influenced fertility behaviour in India. Given continued declines in fertility, timely research that explores the impact of son preference and child mortality on parity progression with recent data is warranted. Analyzing data from the NFHS-5 (2019–2021) for women aged 35 to 49, the purpose of the present study was to examine whether son preference and child mortality as well as sociodemographic factors influence parity progression. Logistic regression models revealed that women with no sons were more likely to continue childbearing at each parity. At parities two to three, women with one son were more likely to continue childbearing, however, once there were two sons, women were less likely to continue having more children. At each parity, women who experienced death of a child were more likely to continue childbearing. Further, women who were socially and economically disadvantaged were generally more likely to continue childbearing than women who did not experience social and economic disadvantage. Policies that reduce son preference, improve child survival, and empower women may be essential for lowering parity progression and helping women achieve their ideal number of children.


En Inde, l’agrandissement des familles, en grande partie conditionné par la préférence pour les garçons et la mortalité juvénile, a toujours exercé une influence sur les comportements de fécondité. Compte tenu de la baisse continue du taux de fécondité, il convient de réaliser des recherches opportunes s’appuyant sur des données récentes afin d’étudier l’incidence de la préférence pour la naissance de garçons et de la mortalité juvénile sur l’agrandissement des familles. Dans notre étude fondée sur l’analyse des données de l’étude NFHS-5 (2019–2021) portant sur les femmes âgées de 35 à 49 ans, nous avons cherché à déterminer si la préférence pour les garçons, la mortalité juvénile ainsi que d’autres facteurs socio-démographiques exerçaient une influence sur l’agrandissement des familles indiennes. Les modèles de régression logistique ont montré que pour toutes les parités, les femmes n’ayant pas encore donné naissance à un garçon étaient plus susceptibles de continuer à procréer. Pour les parités 2 à 3, les femmes ayant donné naissance à un (1) garçon étaient plus susceptibles de continuer à procréer, celles ayant donné naissance à deux garçons s’avérant quant à elles moins enclines à avoir d’autres enfants. Pour toutes les parités, les femmes ayant perdu un (1) enfant étaient plus susceptibles de continuer à procréer. En outre, les femmes défavorisées étaient plus susceptibles de continuer à procréer par rapport à celles bénéficiant de meilleures conditions socio-économiques. La mise en œuvre de politiques visant à réduire la préférence pour les garçons, améliorer la survie infantile et autonomiser les femmes pourrait s’avérer indispensable pour freiner l’agrandissement des familles et permettre aux femmes d’avoir le nombre d’enfants qu’elles désirent.

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Data Availability

The datasets generated and analysed during the current study are available in the name of National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) at IIPS, Mumbai data repository at


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The authors are highly thankful to Dr. Kaushalendra Kumar, Assistant Professor, Department of Public Health and Mortality Studies, IIPS, Mumbai, India for his help in data curation. The authors are also grateful to anonymous reviewer(s) their valuable comments to improve the manuscript. The authors feel indebted to the Chief Editor and entire editorial team for the support and valuable feedback to improve the manuscript to a high publishing level.


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HP developed the concept, analyzed the data and made final drafts of the manuscript. RM performed analysis of the data, made initial interpretation and drafted the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Hemant Patidar.

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Patidar, H., Mishra, R. Son Preference and Child Mortality as Predictors of Parity Progression in India: Evidence from NFHS-5. Can. Stud. Popul. 51, 4 (2024).

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