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Some Roots of Preference: Roles, Activities and Familial Values

Archived Abstract of Former PSC Researcher

Coombs, Lolagene C., and Ronald Freedman. "Some Roots of Preference: Roles, Activities and Familial Values." Demography, 16, no. 3 (August 1979): 359-76.

This paper examines some of the connecting links between modernization in a developing society, particularly urbanization and increased education for women, and preferences for number of children. Using 1973 Taiwan data, preferences for smaller families are found to be consistently related to modern attitudes and behavior in the three domains examined: intrafamilial husband-wife role relationships, extrafamilial activities of the wife, and familial and religious values relating the family to the larger institutional setting. Modernization of these attitudes, behaviors, and values has an impact on reproductive goals independent of their association with structural variables. The wife's outside activities and exposure to modern influences through the mass media are especially important linkages, having a particularly strong mediating effect in the education effect on preferences. Intrafamilial relations appear to be of less importance. Modernization of familial and religious values mediates between urbanization and family size preferences. The measure of preference used is a scale value which has been found in other research to be more predictive of reproductive behavior than the conventional single-valued statement of number of children wanted. As the level of contraceptive use rises in developing societies, family size preferences increasingly become a factor in birth rates, and understanding the sources of change in these preferences takes on added importance. The policy implications of these findings are discussed.

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