Punjabi families in transition: an intergenerational study of fertility and family change
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Pakistan, a late starter in fertility transition, has been experiencing a rapid fertility decline since 1990. Although existing research often presents patriarchal family systems as a major reason for the delay of the onset of this transition, there is no empirical study investigating the transformations in these family systems or intrafamilial power relationships during the ongoing transition. Published research also often fails to reflect the complex nature and processes behind this fertility transition as it lacks diachronic analysis and remains within disciplinary boundaries. This thesis contributes to filling these gaps through investigating the social processes underpinning the fertility decline in Punjab, Pakistan by: 1. employing an interdisciplinary approach that links demography with sociology, and quantitative approaches with qualitative ones, to provide a more comprehensive analysis of fertility and family change 2. employing an intergenerational approach that enables diachronic analysis of the differences in the reproductive careers of two generations of women and the actors’ perceptions of factors contributing to these differences 3. providing multiple perspectives of family members regarding the reasons for fertility change, how reproduction is negotiated within the existing power hierarchies in the family, and how familial power relationships evolve to adjust these changes The study employs a two-phased explanatory sequential mixed methods approach. Phase one utilises two existing Demographic and Health Surveys to compare the changes in fertility preferences and behaviour of Punjabi women aged 25-34 in 1990/1 and 2006/7. Phase two is a qualitative study conducted in Punjab in 2010/11 among young women, their mothers, mothers-in-law and husbands to gather data on their perceptions of reasons for fertility change and the ways in which families and family relationships bearing on reproductive decision-making has transformed during the ongoing transition. The findings show that “planning a family”, which was seen to be in the hands of God among the older generation, has entered into the “calculus of conscious choice” among young women who have specific preferences with regard to when and how many children to have. This transition has mainly been a response to rapid socioeconomic developments and improved living conditions that are paradoxically experienced as growing economic constraints for the households through increasing costs of childbearing and rearing as well as generating aspirations for social mobility. This was also complemented by changes in values and attitudes regarding family planning, parenthood and familial relationships led by institutional changes and policy developments including expansion of family planning programme, changing religious stances about family planning, the spread of mass media, and increased (importance given to) female schooling. All of these developments also coincide with a subtle transformation of family systems in Punjab, as well as a limited dissolution of previously existing power relationships within the families by expansion of the boundaries of gender roles, honour and obedience. Although young women are expected to be obedient to their husbands and mothers-in-law with regard to fertility decisions, they have been able to influence the power dynamics between themselves and their mothers-in-law by building stronger conjugal relationships and being submissive to their husbands’ desires.