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A glimpse on women’s fertility

a study in the fringe of Bilaspur, India

Goswami, Sribas

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Evidence Based Women's Health Journal: May 2014 - Volume 4 - Issue 2 - p 72-77
doi: 10.1097/01.EBX.0000440883.60043.42
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Abstract

Introduction

Human fertility is responsible for biological replacement and for the maintenance of human society. Fluctuations in the fertility rates of a place might take place in response to biological, political, social, and economical conditions. With fertility decline reaching all the continents, human societies in the developing world are passing through an irreversible phase in their demographic history 1. This decline, which illustrates the second phase of the demographic transition following the inception of mortality decline, is a product of important transformations affecting households and their economic functioning in a society undergoing rapid changes. The word ‘population’ is a crucial concept in the discipline of demography that, abstracted from the multifaceted aspects of people’s lives, classifies them according to numerically observable characteristics such as age, sex, marital status, reproductive age, age at marriage, employment status, fertility rate, etc 2. The large canvas covered by demography demands that some quantitative data must be in place to have the idea of the size, composition, and distribution of population across the globe.

Reproductive behavior of women has been a concern especially during the recent decades. The fertility pattern and contraceptive use among adolescents help us to understand the implications for adolescent reproductive health in a society; it also gives insight to the future fertility situation in the country 3. We will discuss in detail about the factors affecting the fertility rate in the fringe of Bilaspur.

Recent decades have witnessed growing interest of social scientist including sociologists in the ever-increasing demographic dynamism, especially in the less developed realm. Population growth in an area holds the key of the understanding of entire demographic structure of the area. Fertility is one of the main components of population growth. It refers to the occurrence of birth. India had a total fertility rate of 2.72 per women 4. It has become the leading nation to contribute to the world’s teeming billion. In our discussion, there may be more deep-seated regional dimensions of Bilaspur’s society, which have helped to determine the timing and extent of both socioeconomic and demographic progress. Accordingly, when one looks at current fertility variation – for example, across the area’s major villages – what one observes to a considerable extent is the differences in the timing of fertility decline, more than differences in the impact of these socioeconomic variables.

The present study is a humble attempt to analyze the reproductive behavior of the population in the fringe area of Bilaspur. This study gives a special emphasis on the reproductive behavior of married women in 15–49 years age group. The word fringe means the zone or frontier at the discontinuity between city and country in which rural and urban land use are intermixed. The fringe is defined with respect to the city and exists in the agricultural interland where land use is changing.

Objectives of the study

The aim of the study was to analyze the social and economic dimensions of demographic change through the study of spatial heterogeneity of fertility in the fringe of Bilaspur, with two central objectives – description and interpretation of fertility transition in this area to contribute to a global synthesis on current population dynamics in developing countries. It will also help to identify the villages where the decrease in natural increase and in overall population growth will be most pronounced in the next decade as well as those with a still powerful growth potential.

Another objective of the study was to examine, for the first time, the fertility patterns at the micro/small unit level (village). Availability of computerized data from the 2011 census of India 5 at the lowest administrative level (village blocks/urban wards) and the availability of fertility-related measurements from the census of India were useful in this analysis. On the basis of this, research issues and specific locations were identified for a detailed investigation at the field level during the second phase of the study. The most important tool in the study is the use of detailed behavior of fertility decline as an illustration of the diffusion process.

Area of the study

For the purpose of this microlevel enquiry, four villages were selected for a detailed investigation on fertility behavior of women. Four villages are Kormi, Banakdee, Mahammed, and Ushlapur. There are 21 villages in the fringe area of Bilaspur city. Total 11 535.7 sq hectares for the study of reproductive behavior in the fringe area have been selected.

Brief descriptions of villages are as follows:

  • Kormi: The total area of the village is 326.8 sq hectares. Total population of the village is 4009 in number, of which 2008 are male individuals and 2001 are female individuals.
  • Banakdee: The area of total village is 125.4 sq hectares and total population is 750 in number, of which 287 are male individuals and 363 are female individuals.
  • Mahammed: The area of the village is 551.8 sq hectares. Total population in this village is 5500 in number, of which male individuals are 2765 in number and female individuals are 2735 in number.
  • Ushlapur has a total population of 1978, of which male individuals are 992 in number and female individuals are 986 in number.

Methods of study

In modern research especially of large-scale survey type, the grids of conceptual language that involve both concepts, definitions, and classificatory procedure together with methodology of data collection and compilation tend to fix our sensible perception and necessarily our thought and behavior. As a first step, all the available secondary information was gathered from various sources. Present study was mainly based on the primary data selected by random sampling method. The information was collected from the married female participants of 15–49 years age group. Data were collected through the interview method. In this study, 551 families of four villages were selected as sample. Studies on four villages provided us information about different levels of socioeconomic development and various stages of fertility transition. This study was based on microlevel survey, and information was collected through structured interview schedule. The study was conducted in 2012.

All patients gave thier formal consent. The study was approved by the local ethical committee.

Various issues affecting the fertility rate among women

Fertility plays a very important role in bringing about changes in population. We can analyze the collected data for discussion on the factors that affect the fertility. The basic determinates of fertility include some type of factors that influence the fertility rate of population. For our convenience, we may classify these factors into four major groups.

  • Biological factors.
  • Demographic factors.
  • Economic factors.
  • Sociocultural factors.

Biological factors

  • Fecundity and fertility.
  • Physical and mental health.

Biological factors are considered the basic determinates of fertility and they themselves influence the fertility rate 6. Fecundity and physical and mental health have been considered important determinates of fertility. This is not to say that the biological factor has no role to play, but to say that apart from it the cultural and social dimensions do have a large share in influencing the fertility of women. For instance, the demographic category of fertility steps forth into existence only in marriage in some societies, but this is not the normative pattern in many others. However, the biological factors are as follows:

  • Fecundity and fertility: Genetic fertility or fecundity is the most important biological factor determining fertility. Fertility among women is restricted to their reproductive span, which begins with the attainment of puberty and ends with the arrival of menopause. Fecundity is the biological potential – the physiological capacity to participate in reproduction 7.
  • Physical and mental health: General health condition and hygienic habits are also regarded as important biological determinates of human fertility. Bad hygienic condition can lead to partial or complete sterility. Poor health conditions lead to mortality, which affects human fertility.

Demographic factors

Of the demographic factors such as age composition and sex composition, degree of urbanization is the most important, which has direct implication with the women fertility in this area 8. It is speculated that the provision of care to a huge population including the sizeable proportion of the aged people would be a Herculean task. Therefore, in addition to government’s greater commitment to care (social as well as health) of elderly people, there is a need for policy intervention to reinforce the existing family support, which in the conditions of modernity is gradually crumbling down. However, women autonomy is synonymous to women empowerment 9. It gives an indication on women’s participation in household decision-making, freedom of movement, access to money, etc., which has likely to have a significant effect on demography by influencing their attitude and ability in fertility. Following data are collected through survey.

Present age of female individuals

Table 1 reflects the present age groups of mothers with their fertility potential. It is generally seen that the fertility is decreasing with the gradual increase in the age of female individuals. These will be the young adults who would participate in making entry into families and thus would be responsible for future rise in population. Therefore, they need to be targeted, if India is to achieve replacement level of fertility of 2.10 (total fertility rate=2.1) by the next decade.

T1-3
Table 1:
Present age of female and fertility in the fringe of Bilaspur

From Table 1, it is clear that individuals in the age group between 45 and 49 have higher degree of fertility, even higher than those in the age group of 15–19 and above. However, the table also reflects that individuals in the age group between 35 and 39 have the highest number of children, and the child–mother ratio is 3.72. Even in the age group 40–44, the child–mother ratio is 3.87, which shows that mothers in this area enjoy a long period of fertility and indicates the ability of reproduction for a long span of time. The level of fertility in women is still high with respect to increasing age. This may have an effect on the total fertility level of the country. The varying pace of fertility is also manifested in the distribution of population between the young and old people.

Age at marriage

The age of the mother at the time of marriage has considerable effect on fertility. Women who marry early have a greater chance of bearing children and enjoy a longer period of fertility. This gives a partial picture of women’s fertility in India 10.

From Table 2 it is seen that the average number of children is higher (3.75) among women who marry before 15 years of age. However, from the above data, it is clear that the fertility rate decreases with the increase in age at marriage. It is clear that mothers in the age group of 15–18 years have the highest number of children and that they give birth to their first child within this age range (Table 4). It is noteworthy that the age group of 23–26 has the lowest number of marriages. This is the reflection of Indian culture in which parents do not permit their daughter to remain unmarried in the family for a long time. In many cases, we can see the case of marriages below 15 years, which is prohibited by the legal authority in India.

T2-3
Table 2:
Age at marriage of women

For our convenience, we made a hypothesis of relationship between age at marriage and fertility in the fringe of Bilaspur. In this regard, to check the hypothesis, we took a relevant test named ‘the χ2-test’. Here, at 0.001 significance level, the χ2 value (16.27) was greater than the calculated value (6.73). Hence, the significance is clear between fertility and age at marriage.

Duration of married life and fertility

Duration of marriage is an important factor in the study of fertility performance. Women with longer duration of marriage are endowed higher fertility.

Table 3 shows that the fertility rate is high among those women who enjoy a long married life and have comparatively good number of children. The respondents who enjoy 15–19 and 20–24 years span of married life have the maximum number of children, where mother–child ratio is 3.74 and 3.78, respectively. From Table 2, we can see that the tendency of early marriage in this area is a prevailing culture.

T3-3
Table 3:
Duration of married life and fertility of women

Age of mother at the time of first delivery of child

After marriage, every couple desires to have children. It is the inner feeling and source of satisfaction to every married person that they have their own children.

Table 4 shows that the age of mother is an important matter of concern. In mothers with age between 19 and 22 years, the fertility rate is very high in the fringe of Bilaspur. Of the surveyed fringe, the fertility rate is very high in 15–18 age group in Ushlapur and Banakdee. From the available data, it is clear that age group between 19 and 22 is the most important span of time when women in these area give birth to their first child. If we see Table 2, it would be clear that the maximum number of women marries at the age below 15 years and just after 1 year they become mother in maximum cases. The analysis shows that the higher the age of women at the time of first birth, the lower will be the fertility.

T4-3
Table 4:
Age of mother at the time of first delivery

Infant mortality

Infant mortality is another important factor in influencing the fertility rate. Many infants die just after their birth or their span of life is very short because of various reasons. High levels of infant mortality combined with the strong preference for son motivates women to bear high number of children in an attempt to have a son or two to survive to adulthood. Infant mortality lies in the stage of social and economic development of the society. In society where social and economical conditions are not good, the cases of infant mortality is high 11.

From Table 5, it is clear that the fringe of Bilaspur has a high rate of death, fever, and diarrhea.

T5-3
Table 5:
Infant mortality in the fringe of Bilaspur

Infant mortality rate of the study area

Economical factors

Economical factors play an important role that affects the fertility rate very much directly as well as indirectly. In general, the fertility rate is high among farmers as compared with servicemen. In addition, the fertility rate is high in the low income groups, and this group has high mortality rate because of inadequate medical infrastructure and unhygienic food consumption.

Income level: During field survey, it was revealed that maximum household had negative relationship between income and fertility rate 12. The high income group has good education facility and that caused low infant mortality. In surveyed area in the fringe, most of the families had monthly income between Rs. 1000 and 2500.

Fertility among working and nonworking mothers

An effort has been made to know the fertility behavior of women among the working and nonworking group. In surveyed area, 58.91% family earns below Rs. 2000 per month and only 0.73% earns Rs. 8000 per month. Hence, the overall scenario indicates that people belong to low income group. Generally, the number of children born is less in working women. Table 6 will show the present picture of this area. Generally, nonworking mothers have better opportunity to have issues because their physical and other circumstances suit in their favor. Working women take either less issues or late issues to avoid the problem of looking after and maintenance of their child. Majority of women with higher level of education must have migrated to urban areas in search for job opportunities. This happens mostly with the working literate mothers.

T6-3
Table 6:
Fertility among working and nonworking mother

Social factors

The social determinants are much longer than biological and demographic determinates; hence, they are very significant in studying women fertility. Religion is one of the social factors in governing the family decisions regarding the size of the family especially in India where religion plays a dominating position, which is directly related to fertility 13. In some religion, family planning is considered antireligion and children are considered the gift of god. Some villagers consider children as their assets, which lead to high fertility. Having children, especially male children, improves a women’s status in society 14.

  • Polygamy: It is noticed that, in polygamy, fertility is comparatively lower than in monogamy. In polygamy, a husband can have more than one wife at a time. Presently, the system of polygamy is rarely observed by the people but during survey few cases of polygamy were found.
  • Separation and divorce: Surveyed area has very negligible cases of separation and divorce, and study shows that the fertility rate is low among these group.
  • Widowhood: Widow and widowhood is a normal phenomenon among the old aged individuals, but in case of young widow this is believed as misfortune. In this group, low fertility is observed until their remarriage. In this practice, women cannot remarry in normal situation unless family or society permits.
  • Types of family and fertility: In the surveyed area, most of the families are nuclear and few of them are joint families. It is a common tendency among the Indians living in joint family to have many children, but in case of nuclear family the picture is just opposite. The causes might be economical or social but the structure of the family has great influence over the fertility behavior.

Table 7 shows a clear picture of the family structure and their distribution of child population. Although the surveyed area mostly covers nuclear family, joint families do not lag behind. Table 7 reflects that large number of women belong to nuclear family and they have better opportunity to look after their children very well. Nuclear family system is emerging with great impetus nowadays.

T7-3
Table 7:
Types of family and fertility in the fringe of Bilaspur

Table 8 reflects how education has a direct impact on women fertility. The higher percentages reported for women who had no formal schooling reflects low level of education in the inhabitants.

T8-3
Table 8:
Mother’s education and fertility behavior

Mother’s education, according to the NFHS (See Directorate of Economics and Statistics, District-wise Socio-economic Development Index 2001 of Chhattisgarh State, Chhattisgarh), is highly correlated with the level of malnutrition among children. Among various reasons, it is clear from the surveyed area that the practice of early marriage provides women a long span of time for producing child, and the overall population increases. Through this study, we can determine the factors that play an important role in controlling the fertility rate among women in the fringe of Bilaspur. From Table 7, it is clear that maximum number of mothers belong to nuclear family. In India, as the trend of formation of nuclear family has taken tremendous impetus, the women are getting better opportunity in their life; however, from Tables 7 and 8, it is clear that illiterate women have more number of issues than literate women and they mostly belong to nuclear family. Now, an attempt could be taken to correlate the mother’s education and fertility behavior. We generally see that higher educated women are capable of taking independent decision about giving birth to a child. They are conscious about their health, economical conditions, and social facts than the illiterate women. In rural sector, many women are bound to leave their education in early stage because of many social problems. It is widely accepted that education makes women conscious and up to some extent independent regarding bearing offspring, and our study has a reflection that illiterate mothers are having more issues than literate mothers. One of the causes may be that, to support the family, rural women give birth to many children as helping hand.

Concluding remarks

The overall findings of this study suggesting varying fertility in surroundings seem to be the result of the level of development in and around the fringe and the risk perceptions among the people. The findings illustrate that the social, biological, economic, spatial, and cultural factors together determine the fertility behavior of certain groups. However, more than that, their perception of ‘risk factors’ influences their fertility decision-making directly. Although the diffusion mechanism and imitation factor are largely relevant, its impact varies considerably across the communities and geographical locations. The level of fertility is still high among the group, despite the changing attitudes of people. As women in these area enjoy a long period of fertility, population growth must occur rapidly. The study therefore indicates the need for reorientating the views of people toward achieving a lower fertility in the rural communities through measures such as incentive giving, education, and extension of family planning programs to the rural areas. The study also reflects inadequate literacy level among mothers, which has a direct relationship with the ascending rate of literacy. During the field work, it was felt that family planning measures and awareness campaigning mechanism are not adequately effective. From the above study, it is clear that one of the inevitable direct consequences of demographic transition, as we have discussed, would be a change in the age composition of national population that would shift its share from the young to the elderly population. These changes in age structure have very important demographic, socioeconomic, and health implications. The need for goods and services, such as jobs, housing, socioeconomic support, health, etc., would also undergo changes. Accompanying such changes are also increase in urbanization, nuclearization of family, greater mobility of child(ren), and psychological support in old age. This would usher in unprecedented change in socioeconomic condition. The study reveals many cases of early marriage (below 15 years for women), which is alarming particularly in these areas. The study shows that in the age group 40–44 the mother–child ratio is 3.87, which indicates that mothers in this area enjoy a long period of fertility and also indicates the ability to bear children for a long period of time. Forecasting the future is certainly risky. There is always the danger that one will be swept along by the herd. The thrust of this piece has been that a consideration of future fertility trends in the fringe area should really be conducted at the village level time to time. It has been shown that a microlevel approach to the formulation of fertility assumptions for population projections leads to a significantly slower rate of fertility decline than does an all-state approach. Total fertility rate is decreasing in virtually all villages. More importantly, any change in the attitude toward fertility behavior is only possible, if there is a positive change in the socioeconomic and infrastructural conditions of rural population.

Acknowledgements

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

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Keywords:

demography; empowerment; fecundity; fertility; infant mortality; polygamy; urbanization

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