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Marital Processes, Husband-Wife Relationships, and Fertility Behaviors

a PSC Research Project

Investigators:   Dirgha Ghimire, William Axinn

This is a proposal to study the influence of marital processes on childbearing practices in a society just beginning a dramatic fertility transition. This study will focus on the most significant aspects of fertility decline: rates of contraceptive use both for postponement and termination of childbearing. The setting, rural Nepal, is in the midst of transitions in both marital processes and childbearing practices. Both theory and preliminary evidence point toward the importance of changes in multiple dimensions of marital processes as key links between individuals’ community context, non-family experiences, and childbearing behaviors. However, the specific mechanisms responsible for creating these links remain unknown. We build on an ongoing program of research that has already made numerous contributions to our understanding of the influence of various community and individual level factors on both marital and childbearing behaviors. We propose to investigate multiple martial processes as mechanisms linking community and individual level factors to fertility specifically contraceptive use. To accomplish this we will integrate existing, culturally appropriate measures of multiple dimensions of marital processes into models of contraceptive use to conduct direct tests of these mechanisms. The data we propose to use contain a particularly rich body of contextual measures, detailed personal interviews with both husbands and wives, and record of contraceptive use spanning more than 50 years. With this wealth of information from and about husbands and wives, we have the measures necessary to significantly advance the scientific understanding of role of marital processes and marital relationships in explaining the effects of context and non-family experience on contraceptive use. The insights we gain from this study are particularly significant because marital processes may strongly affect contraceptive use, and ultimately influence both family and child health and wellbeing.

Funding Period: 09/01/2009 to 08/31/2011

Country of Focus: Nepal

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