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Husbands, wives, and in-laws: Family dynamics and childbearing behavior in Nepal

Dissertation
Author: Cynthia F. Link
Abstract:
This dissertation explores relationship dynamics between wives and their husbands' families and the interconnections of these relationship dynamics with childbearing behavior in rural Nepal, a society undergoing dramatic social and demographic change. Despite much theoretical emphasis on the extended family system in many non-Western settings, empirical research integrating the dynamics of women's relationships with their husbands and parents-in-law is rare. This study in a region facing pressing overpopulation and poverty significantly advances our theoretical understanding of family relationships and fertility, and generates new empirical evidence to help policy makers implement more effective fertility-related programs. Giving both theoretical consideration and empirical attention to reciprocal effects between family dynamics and childbearing behavior, I investigate three specific questions: (1) How does co-residence with a mother-in-law affect spouses' childbearing behavior? (2) How does childbearing behavior influence wives' relationship happiness with their mothers-in-law? (3) How does contraceptive use influence change in spouses' relationship dynamics? Data from the Chitwan Valley Family Study enable me to address these questions. I use highly detailed measures of husband-wife and in-law relationship dynamics at two time points and a longitudinal record of childbearing and contraceptive events to provide empirical investigation into these theoretical questions. Results provide new insights valuable for answering key practical and theoretical questions about family relationships and the transition to lower fertility. Co-residence with a mother-in-law is found to increase the rate of first pregnancy. Childbearing behaviors are also found to have important consequences for relationship dynamics between wives and their mothers-in-law and husbands. Childbearing, particularly bearing sons, is associated with wives reporting happier relationships with their mothers-in-law. Furthermore, using contraceptives, particularly the oral contraceptive pill, may promote increased conflict between husbands and wives. This dissertation should encourage greater integration of husbands and mothers-in-law into family planning programs as a policy tool. Moreover, this study should motivate greater attention to emotions and close personal relationships for deepening our understanding of demographic behaviors.

TABLE OF CONTENTS DEDICATION ii ACKNOWLEDGMENTS iii LIST OF TABLES vii LIST OF FIGURES ix ABSTRACT x CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION 1 CHAPTER 2: SETTING 9 CHAPTER 3: DATA AND METHODOLOGICAL ISSUES 28 CHAPTER 4: CO-RESIDENCE WITH A MOTHER-IN-LAW 39 AND CHILDBEARING BEHAVIOR CHAPTER 5: CHILDBEARING AND THE MOTHER-IN-LAW 66 RELATIONSHIP CHAPTER 6: CONTRACEPTTVE USE AND CHANGING 103 MARITAL DYNAMICS CHAPTER 7: CONCLUSION 134 BIBLIOGRAPHY 145 VI

LIST OF TABLES 2.1. Number of Children Ever Born and Percent Who Have Used a 22 Contraceptive, by Age at Time of Survey, for Ever-Married Women in 1996 2.2a. Marital Dynamics (percentages) for Currently Married Respondents 23 Age 15-34 At Time of Survey 2.2b. Marital Dynamics (percentages) for Currently Married Respondents 24 Age 15-34 and Not Sterilized At Time of Survey 2.3. Percent Who Have Ever Lived with In-Laws, by Age at Time of 25 Survey, for Ever-Married Women 2.4. Percent Who Strongly Agree that a Married Son Should Live with His 26 Parents in their Old Age, by Age at Time of Survey 2.5. Percent Who Strongly Agree or Agree that a Daughter-in-Law Should 27 Obey Her Mother-in-Law After Coming to her Husband's Home, by Age at Time of Survey 3.1a. Percentages by whether Mother-in-Law Lives in the Household, for 37 Married Women Age 15-34 with a Living Mother-in-Law in 1996 3.1b. Percentages by whether Mother-in-Law Lives in the Household, for 38 Married Women Age 15-34 in 1996 4.1. Means and Standard Deviations of Variables Used in the Analyses 59 4.2. Logistic Regression Estimates of the Effects of Co-Residence on the 60 Odds of Pregnancy, by Number of Children Born 4.3. Logistic Regression Estimates of the Effects of Co-Residence on the 62 Odds of Depo-Provera Use 4.4. Logistic Regression Estimates of the Effects of Co-Residence on the 63 Odds of Husband or Wife Sterilization VII

4.5. Logistic Regression Estimates of the Effects of Co-Residence on the 64 Odds of Husband or Wife Sterilization, by Wives' Cohort 4.6. Percentages by whether Censored from Multivariate Analysis Sample 65 5.1. Means and Standard Deviations of Variables Used in Cross-Sectional 97 Analyses 5.2. Means and Standard Deviations of Variables Used in Longitudinal 98 Analyses 5.3. Logistic Regression Estimates of the Effects of a Daughter-in-Law's 99 Childbearing Experiences by 1996 on a Happy Relationship with her Mother-in-Law in 1996 5.4. Logistic Regression Estimates of the Effects of a Daughter-in-Law's 100 Childbearing Experiences by 1996 on Change in an Extremely Happy Relationship with her Mother-in-Law from 1996 to 2008 5.5. Logistic Regression Estimates of the Effects of a Daughter-in-Law's 101 Childbearing Experiences between 1996 and 2008 on Change in an Extremely Happy Relationship with her Mother-in-Law from 1996 to 2008 5.6. Percentages by whether Included in Longitudinal Analysis Sample 102 due to Mother-in-Law Still Alive by 2008 6.1. Means and Standard Deviations of Variables Used in the Analyses 128 6.2. Ordered Logistic Regression Estimates of the Effects of Contraceptive 129 Use on Change in Frequency of Disagreement with Spouse from 1996 to 2008 (Women's Reports) 6.3. Ordered Logistic Regression Estimates of the Effects of Contraceptive 130 Use on Change in Frequency of Disagreement with Spouse from 1996 to 2008 (Men's Reports) 6.4. Logistic Regression Estimates of the Effects of Contraceptive Use on 131 Change in Ever Beaten by Spouse from 1996 to 2008 (Women's Reports) 6.5. Ordered Logistic Regression Estimates of the Effects of Contraceptive 132 Use on Change in Love for Spouse from 1996 to 2008 (Women's Reports) 6.6. Ordered Logistic Regression Estimates of the Effects of Contraceptive 133 Use on Change in Love for Spouse from 1996 to 2008 (Men's Reports) VI I I

LIST OF FIGURES 2.1. Location of Nepal in the World 20 2.2. Chitwan Valley Study Area 21 5.1. Percent of Each Cohort Married More Than 10 Years, by 94 Whether Mother-in-Law is Alive, for Married Women Age 15-54 in 1996 5.2. Reports of Relationship Happiness with Mothers-in-Law, by 95 Year of Interview, for Longitudinal Sample 5.3. Temporal Ordering of Measurement 96 IX

ABSTRACT This dissertation explores relationship dynamics between wives and their husbands' families and the interconnections of these relationship dynamics with childbearing behavior in rural Nepal, a society undergoing dramatic social and demographic change. Despite much theoretical emphasis on the extended family system in many non-Western settings, empirical research integrating the dynamics of women's relationships with their husbands and parents-in-law is rare. This study in a region facing pressing overpopulation and poverty significantly advances our theoretical understanding of family relationships and fertility, and generates new empirical evidence to help policy makers implement more effective fertility-related programs. Giving both theoretical consideration and empirical attention to reciprocal effects between family dynamics and childbearing behavior, I investigate three specific questions: 1) How does co-residence with a mother-in-law affect spouses' childbearing behavior? 2) How does childbearing behavior influence wives' relationship happiness with their mothers-in-law? 3) How does contraceptive use influence change in spouses' relationship dynamics? Data from the Chitwan Valley Family Study enable me to address these questions. I use highly detailed measures of husband-wife and in-law relationship dynamics at two time points and a longitudinal record of childbearing and contraceptive events to provide empirical investigation into these theoretical questions. Results provide new insights valuable for x

answering key practical and theoretical questions about family relationships and the transition to lower fertility. Co-residence with a mother-in-law is found to increase the rate of first pregnancy. Childbearing behaviors are also found to have important consequences for relationship dynamics between wives and their mothers-in-law and husbands. Childbearing, particularly bearing sons, is associated with wives reporting happier relationships with their mothers-in-law. Furthermore, using contraceptives, particularly the oral contraceptive pill, may promote increased conflict between husbands and wives. This dissertation should encourage greater integration of husbands and mothers-in-law into family planning programs as a policy tool. Moreover, this study should motivate greater attention to emotions and close personal relationships for deepening our understanding of demographic behaviors. XI

CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Although research on fertility has historically focused exclusively on women, theory says that women live in a web of close personal relationships which define the context of reproductive decisions. This dissertation expands our understanding of how relationship dynamics between wives and their husbands' families are intricately linked to childbearing behavior in Nepal, a society undergoing dramatic social and demographic change. This project focuses on dynamics of two relationships that are fundamental to the Nepalese kinship system: the husband/wife relationship and the mother-in-law/daughter- in-law relationship. This research generates new empirical evidence valuable for answering key practical and theoretical questions about family relationships and the transition to lower fertility. Improved understanding of specific factors linked to childbearing behavior is crucial for policy makers. Despite strong antinatalist policies and family planning programs, Nepal continues to have relatively high fertility and low contraceptive use, particularly in rural areas (CBS 2003; Subedi 1998). In South Asia reducing fertility is a high priority, particularly because of pressing population growth, poverty, and social unrest issues (Haq 1997, 2002; UNDP 2000, 2001). Curbing population growth is believed to be an important tool for improving standards of living, especially for women 1

and children. Population policies and family planning programs have been a key focus of Nepal's national development plan since early development efforts, yet high fertility currently persists. Recently Nepal has begun to experience a fertility decline, with a total fertility rate (TFR) falling from 5.1 in 1991 to approximately 4.6 in 2001 (Retherford and Thapa 1998, 2004; Suwal 2001). However, this TFR is still relatively high even compared to other Asian countries. New information about dimensions of family dynamics most strongly related to childbearing behavior will be important for creating and implementing more effective public programs to help reach fertility objectives. Moreover, rural Nepalese live in conditions similar to millions of other poor people in rural Asia, particularly in rural China and rural India. Also, family life in Nepal is similar in many ways to family life in nearby regions of South Asia, including Northern India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. Thus findings from this research may be applicable to other regions facing pressing overpopulation and poverty issues. This knowledge may also be useful in other settings in the non-Western world where high fertility has not responded to national family planning programs. On the theoretical side, findings from this research will promote a greater understanding of the role of affinal family relationship dynamics in demographic transition. Fundamental theories of demographic transition predict that spousal and in law relations are key factors producing variation and change in demographic behaviors. However, despite theoretical emphasis on the centrality of family relationships to childbearing behavior, empirical social science has produced virtually no tests of these longstanding central hypotheses. A key reason for this gap in the research literature is that measurement demands for such investigation are extremely high - such a study 2

requires large numbers of study participants, detailed measures of husband-wife and in law relationships, and a longitudinal record of subsequent childbearing behaviors, all from a setting in the midst of significant demographic transition. The Chitwan Valley Family Study from rural Nepal is among the first sources of measures to meet all of these criteria and is therefore especially powerful for testing key hypotheses. This resource presents an exceptional opportunity to provide one of the first empirical investigations fully exploring this issue. Many demographic theories about the family were designed to apply to settings like Nepal, that were primarily agricultural with low levels of education, wage labor opportunities, health services, and mass media, and that were beginning a shift from extremely high fertility and no use of contraceptives to lower fertility and more widespread use of contraceptives. In spite of this, most research on intergenerational/spousal relationships and family formation comes from European and American populations, which are already industrialized and have low levels of fertility and widespread use of contraception. This dissertation fills a substantial gap in the literature by providing vital empirical examples from a setting where the interrelationship of family dynamics and fertility is likely to be even stronger and more relevant to demographic theory. Rural Nepal is an excellent setting to examine family dynamics and childbearing behavior because recent dramatic social changes create variation in spousal and in-law relationships and because this population only recently began a gradual decline in fertility and transition to widespread use of contraception. The results will provide valuable new insights into extended family dynamics in non-Western contexts 3

and demonstrate the potential for broadening theories of interpersonal relationships outside of Western settings. The topic of family relationships is also high priority because despite changing world demographics, individuals continue to find family relationships fundamentally important to their health and well-being (Antonucci, Jackson and Biggs 2007). This dissertation is differentiated from much previous research on family relationships by its emphasis on understanding family dynamics and childbearing behavior within the context of the husband's family. Most of the sophisticated studies of intergenerational relationships and family formation focus on the parental family. In the Nepalese context however, "affinal" relationships, which are relationships created through marriage, are also likely to be extremely salient to women's family and demographic behaviors. This is because historically in this setting upon marriage a daughter leaves her natal home and lives with her husband's family, under the authority of the mother-in-law and husband (Gurung 1998; Suwal 2001). Girls grow up acutely aware that their time in the natal home is transient, and that they will become identified with their affinal family. Despite importance as critical features of the Nepalese family, exploration of the specifics of the relationships between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law and between husband and wife have been neglected areas of research. As a whole, this research advances the conceptualization of the husband's family as an important social unit in which family formation occurs. Results point to the importance of integrating women's relationships with their husbands and parents-in-law into empirical research on childbearing behavior. In addition, this analysis should motivate greater attention to emotions and close personal relationships in social demographic research. It has been suggested that closer 4

engagement with the psychology of interpersonal relationships and emotions will yield a more comprehensive understanding of demographic behaviors (Basu 2006; Hobcraft 2006; Massey 2002). Decisions about reproduction have roots in the nature of close personal relationships, and emotions are an intrinsic part of these relationships (Hobcraft 2006). However, the role of emotions in relationships is largely missing from the understanding of demographic outcomes, which are generally explained within a framework of cognition and rationality (Basu 2006; Massey 2002). Incorporating the psychology of interpersonal relationships should be a high priority for new demographic research (Hobcraft 2006). Hobcraft (2006) advocates engagement with psychology in order to shift research on demographic behavior from a narrower focus on events (e.g. marriages, births) to a broader focus on dynamic processes when people interact (e.g. partnership and intimacy, personal ties). Despite some advances, there remains much progress to be made on this substantial and daunting task. The research contributes to that effort by drawing on theories from psychology to develop a more theoretically rich understanding of close personal relationships that have major implications for demographic behaviors. In this dissertation the concept of interdependence is a key theoretical concept in models of family dynamics and childbearing behavior. Interdependence is the central defining characteristic of relationships between actors (Blau 1964; Kelley and Thibaut 1978; Thibaut and Kelley 1959). Interdependence between actors stems from their relative control over each others' outcomes, which is determined by their position in a social structure and by cultural factors. Within interdependent dyads or small groups, actors engage in exchange, negotiation, bargaining, and strategic action to influence 5

others and pursue individual or collective goals (Cook 1995). Thus interdependence theory explains behaviors in close relationships by examining characteristics of the relationship itself, rather than the individuals who comprise the relationship. In other words, interdependence theory is oriented toward interpersonal rather than intrapersonal processes (Rusbult and Arriaga 2000). Within a family system, members of a family are held together by degrees of interdependence. These patterns of interdependence define the nature of relationships; thus a change in one family member results in a change in another family member (Chibucos, Leite, and Weis 2005). Building on this theoretical concept, this dissertation identifies two affinal family relationships characterized by interdependence: the mother- in-law/daughter-in-law relationship and the husband/wife relationship. I develop context specific hypotheses outlining the various mechanisms through which childbearing and these two affinal relationships may influence each other. I recognize that effects between family dynamics and childbearing behavior can run either direction; thus I give both theoretical consideration and empirical attention to each direction of association. In the first analytic chapter I model childbearing behavior as an outcome affected by family dynamics, and in the second and third analytic chapters I model family dynamics as an outcome affected by childbearing behavior. I begin each analytic chapter by describing the theories and frameworks I rely on to generate the causal pathways through which family dynamics and childbearing behavior are likely to be connected. I now give a brief summary of this research and how it is presented in this dissertation. In Chapter 2 I describe the setting for this research: the Chitwan Valley in rural Nepal. The rapid social change occurring in the Chitwan Valley makes it an ideal 6

setting in which to examine family relationships and childbearing behavior. The Chitwan Valley has only recently experienced fundamental transitions toward lower fertility and widespread use of contraception. Furthermore, recent dramatic social, economic, and institutional changes have promoted the emergence of marital relationships based on a close emotional bond between husbands and wives (Hoelter et al. 2004). Thus there is substantial variation in both spousal and in-law relationships among the population in this study area. This chapter gives a brief discussion of the economic, social, and demographic history of the Chitwan Valley. I present additional detail of how marital relationships have changed over time. I also present a detailed description of extended family living in this setting, paying particular attention to both behavior and attitudes regarding living in joint family households. Chapter 3 contains descriptions of the survey data that I use to test the hypotheses in this dissertation. I describe the data and its various components in detail. I also discuss two general methodological concerns common to many of the analyses in this research - endogeneity and measurement of emotions in close relationships. Because each analytic component requires different measures and analysis strategies, I describe specific measures and model estimation techniques in later analytic chapters. Chapter 4 contains the first set of substantive analyses in this dissertation. In this chapter I examine how co-residence with a mother-in-law affects subsequent childbearing behavior. I consider multiple measures of co-residence and analyze their effects on childbearing behavior in a hazard model framework. I model the influence of co- residence on both pregnancy and permanent contraceptive use, because these events mark the beginning and ending of childbearing. 7

In Chapters 5 and 6 I present analyses of changing family dynamics over time. Chapter 5 focuses on how wives' childbearing experiences influence their reported relationship happiness with their mothers-in-law. This is particularly innovative because I provide the first detailed empirical examination of childbearing and in-law relationship quality in a non-Western setting where mothers-in-law are especially influential. Chapter 6 focuses on how experiences using contraceptives influence changing marital dynamics. I consider several different dimensions of the husband-wife relationship including domestic violence, disagreement, and emotional bond. In each of these chapters I examine childbearing/contraceptive experiences as predictors of variation in mother-in- law/marital dynamics from one time point to another. Predicting change in family dynamics over time allows for much stronger inferences regarding the possible causal roles of childbearing behavior, as compared to analyses of cross-sectional data or longitudinal data without controlling for earlier levels of family dynamics. Finally, Chapter 7 is a conclusion chapter. I provide brief summaries of the empirical results in Chapters 4-6 and discuss the implications of these findings in terms of theoretical, program, and policy development. 8

CHAPTER 2 SETTING In this chapter I describe the setting for this dissertation - the Chitwan Valley of Nepal. I begin with a brief overview of Nepal in general to familiarize readers with the country. I then provide a detailed description of the Chitwan Valley, paying particular attention to how family behaviors and attitudes have changed over time among the individuals living in the study area. Nepal Nepal is a land-locked country on the Asian continent with an area of about 54,000 square miles. Nepal lies along the southern rim of the Himalayan Mountains. To the north is the desert plateau of Tibet in China, and to the south are the northeastern plains of India (see Figure 2.1). Nepal is roughly rectangular, extending approximately 525 miles east to west and approximately 90 to 140 miles north to south (Harris et al. 1973). Considering how small this area is, Nepal's terrain makes dramatic transitions. The Himalayan mountain range in the north contains 10 of the world's highest peaks including Mt. Everest, the world's tallest mountain. In the short distance between the Himalayas and the southern border of Nepal, the land elevation drops to near sea level and the land rapidly changes from extremely high mountains to rolling hills in the central 9

region (where the capital city of Kathmandu is located) and then to flat jungle and farmlands near the Indian border (where the Chitwan Valley is located). (Figure 2.1, about here) Like its geographical terrain, the population of Nepal is extremely diverse. Generally the inhabitants of northern Nepal derive from Tibetan and Mongoloid ancestry, whereas inhabitants of southern Nepal derive from Indian ancestry (Dastider 1995). However, within Nepal there are more than 100 distinct ethnic groups (CBS 2002). Among the many various ethnic groups in Nepal, the two main religions practiced are Hinduism and Buddhism. Nepal was an official Hindu state until 1991, and 80% of the population is said to be Hindu (CBS 2002). This official statistic may be misleading however, because Nepal census takers often place people in the Hindu category unless they specifically declare themselves otherwise (Bista 1991). However, in Nepal religious affiliation is not based on exclusive categories; thus a forced choice survey question on religious affiliation does not capture the extent to which the Nepalese combine religions. Many people in Nepal blend philosophies and rituals from Hinduism, Buddhism, and indigenous religions to form the concept ofdharma or a general way of living (Pearce 2000). With a per capita income of only $470 per person per year in 2009, Nepal ranks among the world's poorest countries. Of its population of 28.8 million people, approximately one-third live below the absolute poverty line. The Nepalese economy is dominated by agriculture; it provides a livelihood for three-fourths of the population. Despite some socioeconomic advances such as increased literacy rates, Nepal's expanding population is considered an obstacle to further development. Nepal's 10

population grew dramatically throughout the 20 century: in 1961 the total population was 9.4 million, and by 1991 it had doubled (Dahal 1993). Moreover, Nepal's population structure is very young: of the total population, 41% are under age 15 (PRB 2006). Finally, average ages at marriage and first birth increased only slightly during the 20th century. The average age at first marriage increased from 15.4 years in 1961 to 17.1 years in 1996, and the average age for a Nepalese woman to give birth to her first child increased from 18 years in 1971 to 19 years in 1996 (MOPE 2000). These demographic characteristics make it likely that Nepal's population will continue to grow during much of the early 21st century. In fact Nepal's population is projected to reach 36.1 million as soon as 2025 (PRB 2006). Since the early 1960s the Nepalese government has implemented a series of programs to reduce population growth by encouraging contraceptive use, raising the standard of living, and providing better reproductive and maternal healthcare facilities and education (Joshi 1995). However, these programs have had only minimal success as fertility in Nepal remains relatively high in rural areas. The total fertility rate (TFR) was 5.1 as recently as 1991, and declined to a TFR of approximately 4.6 by 2001 (Ghimire 2003; Suwal 2001; Tuladhar 1989). Recently Nepal's TFR was estimated at 3.1, but fertility is considerably higher in rural areas (3.3 births per woman) than urban areas (2.1 births per woman), where fertility is at replacement level (MOHP 2007). Regarding contraception, the contraceptive prevalence rate has grown (from 4% in 1976 to 34% in 1996 to 44% in 2006). However, the dominant method used in Nepal continues to be female sterilization (Brunson 2010). Thus in spite of recent increases in contraceptive use, the timing of stopping childbearing remains the main source of variation in 11

completed number of births. Overall knowledge about temporary methods that could serve to space births and thus reduce the total number of births remains low. Like fertility rates, there are considerable differentials in contraceptive use by urban-rural residence. Women in urban areas are more likely to use a family planning method than rural women, reflecting wider availability and easier access to methods in urban than in rural areas. Finally, the gap between wanted and observed fertility rates is greater among women living in rural than in urban areas (MOHP 2007). The Chitwan Valley The Chitwan Valley, the specific study area for this dissertation, is located in the low lying plains in south central Nepal known as the Terai region. The Chitwan Valley is considered the "inner Terai" because a low range of mountains separates it from the rest of the Terai. The valley is bordered in the northwest by the Narayani River, in the south by the Royal Chitwan National Park, and in the northeast by the Mahendra Highway, which runs the whole width of Nepal through the Terai region (see Figure 2.2). (Figure 2.2, about here) The Chitwan Valley has been a setting of rapid social change. Until the 1950s this valley was covered with virgin jungle and sparsely inhabited by indigenous ethnic groups (Guneratne 1994). The jungle was malaria infested, warding off outsiders. In 1955 the government (with assistance from USAID) opened this valley for settlement by deforesting the land and implementing malaria eradication efforts. With its highly fertile soil and warm climate, this prime farmland drew settlers from across Nepal. Soon Chitwan became a melting pot of migrants from many different ethnic groups. Upper Caste Hindus and Lower Caste Hindus, whose ancestors originate from India, used the 12

opening of the valley to obtain excellent farmland. The valley also experienced an influx of migrants of Tibetan origin: Newars, another elite group in Nepal who practice a mixture of Buddhism and Hinduism, and Hill Tibeto-Burmese groups who tend to practice Buddhism. The original inhabitants of the Chitwan Valley, the Terai Tibeto- Burmese, were largely left without good farming land and have been much less able to take advantage of the social changes occurring around them than other groups (Guneratne 1996). Between 1978 and 1984, a bridge was built across the Narayani River and major roads were built linking Narayanghat, Chitwan's largest town, to India and to other cities across Nepal, turning Narayanghat into Nepal's major transportation hub. Thus in short the Chitwan Valley transformed from isolated malaria-infested jungle to prime farmland and a vital urban transportation stop in less than 30 years. Since becoming a business hub of the country, the valley has seen expansion in services and infrastructure including schools, health clinics, markets, wage work, bus services, and the mass media (Axinn and Yabiku 2001). Previous work from this study area shows that there have been sharp increases in school enrollment, visits to health clinics, employment outside of the home, and exposure to different sources of mass media in recent birth cohorts (Axinn and Barber 2001; Axinn and Yabiku 2001; Ghimire, Axinn, Yabiku, Thornton 2006; Yabiku 2004). For example, educational enrollment has risen from virtually zero in the 1960s to 100% of both sexes entering first grade by 1996 (Beutel and Axinn 2002). These physical changes led to similarly dramatic demographic changes among the residents of Chitwan. For example, the mean number of children ever born has decreased and the use of contraceptives has increased. Table 2.1 displays the mean number of 13

Full document contains 174 pages
Abstract: This dissertation explores relationship dynamics between wives and their husbands' families and the interconnections of these relationship dynamics with childbearing behavior in rural Nepal, a society undergoing dramatic social and demographic change. Despite much theoretical emphasis on the extended family system in many non-Western settings, empirical research integrating the dynamics of women's relationships with their husbands and parents-in-law is rare. This study in a region facing pressing overpopulation and poverty significantly advances our theoretical understanding of family relationships and fertility, and generates new empirical evidence to help policy makers implement more effective fertility-related programs. Giving both theoretical consideration and empirical attention to reciprocal effects between family dynamics and childbearing behavior, I investigate three specific questions: (1) How does co-residence with a mother-in-law affect spouses' childbearing behavior? (2) How does childbearing behavior influence wives' relationship happiness with their mothers-in-law? (3) How does contraceptive use influence change in spouses' relationship dynamics? Data from the Chitwan Valley Family Study enable me to address these questions. I use highly detailed measures of husband-wife and in-law relationship dynamics at two time points and a longitudinal record of childbearing and contraceptive events to provide empirical investigation into these theoretical questions. Results provide new insights valuable for answering key practical and theoretical questions about family relationships and the transition to lower fertility. Co-residence with a mother-in-law is found to increase the rate of first pregnancy. Childbearing behaviors are also found to have important consequences for relationship dynamics between wives and their mothers-in-law and husbands. Childbearing, particularly bearing sons, is associated with wives reporting happier relationships with their mothers-in-law. Furthermore, using contraceptives, particularly the oral contraceptive pill, may promote increased conflict between husbands and wives. This dissertation should encourage greater integration of husbands and mothers-in-law into family planning programs as a policy tool. Moreover, this study should motivate greater attention to emotions and close personal relationships for deepening our understanding of demographic behaviors.