Many theories attempt to explain why some countries have undergone fertility transitions while others have not (Cleland & Wilson, 1987). Each theory presents important insights, yet no-one has been able to explain all known fertility transitions. Inspiration for such a model is drawn from the framework presented by Mason in Figure 2.1. (Mason, 1997). She claims that a model of fertility transition needs to be both ideational and interactive: Ideational to recognize that people’s changing perceptions ultimately induce fertility reductions and that these can differ from the reality they mirror. Interactive to reflect that societal changes do not affect fertility in isolation, but in interaction with preexisting conditions and other changes simultaneously occurring.
According to this model, a country’s fertility level is determined by three proximate factors: The perceptions among reproducing people of children’s probabilities of surviving, their perceptions of the costs and benefits associated with having children, and their perceptions of the costs of postnatal versus prenatal controls on family size and composition, with costs incorporating both social, psychological, and financial aspects. 5
The three proximate determinants are effects of the direct and interactive influences of four preexisting conditions and changes in these, viz. the country’s mortality level, the acceptable number of surviving children, the acceptable sex composition of surviving children, and the costs of postnatal versus prenatal controls on family size and composition. The preexisting conditions and changes in them are, in turn, affected by exogenous influences. Lastly, processes of social interaction can influence the proximate determinants directly and indirectly by interacting with the preexisting conditions and changes.
Maybe most importantly, the model perceives the household as a single unit. It thereby neglects to acknowledge that men and women can have differing fertility interests and that power structures between the sexes determine who dominates fertility decisions – an assertion recognized by Mason herself in a later article (Mason, 2001).
The Case of South India
The South Indian Fertility Project (SIFP), establishing as it does a geographic database on the village scale throughout South India, is integrated in this context.
Implications for future fertility
As in the past, future trends in the quantum and tempo of fertility will be driven largely by socioeconomic, socio-psychological, and cultural developments. Most analysts attribute low and delayed fertility to the difficulties women in contemporary industrialized societies face in combining childrearing with their education and a career, and to a rise in individualism and consumerism (Frejka and Calot 2001; Lesthaeghe 2001; McDonald 2000; van de Kaa 1987). These recent trends in childbearing are part of a larger process of social and demographic change usually referred to as the second demographic transition. In addition to declines in fertility, these new transitions are typically accompanied by widespread changes in attitudes and behaviors regarding sexuality, contraception, cohabitation, marriage, divorce, and extramarital childbearing (van de Kaa 1987).
Lesthaeghe (2001) identifies the following set of factors affecting childbearing behavior in post transitional societies:
(i)increased female education and female economic autonomy;
(ii)rising and high consumption aspirations that created a need for a second income in households and equally fostered female labour force participation;
(iii) increased investments in career developments of both sexes, in tandem with increased competition in the workplace;
(iv)rising “post-materialist” traits such as self actualization, ethical autonomy,freedom of choice and tolerance for the non-conventional;
(v) a greater stress on the quality of life with a rising taste for leisure as well;
(vi) a retreat from irreversible commitments and a desire for maintaining an “open future”;
(vii) rising probabilities of separation and divorce, and hence a more cautious “investment in identity.”
What is the concept of Reproductive Health?
“Reproductive health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, in all matters relating to the reproductive system and to its functions and processes. Reproductive health therefore implies that people are able to have a satisfying and safe sex life and that they have the capability to reproduce and the freedom to decide if, when and how often to do so. Implicit in this last condition are the right of men and women to be informed and to have access to safe, effective, affordable and acceptable methods of family planning of their choice, as well as other methods of their choice for regulation of fertility which are not against the law, and the right of access to appropriate health-care services that will enable women to go safely through pregnancy and childbirth and provide couples with the best chance of having a healthy infant. In line with the above definition of reproductive health, reproductive health care is defined as the constellation of methods, techniques and services that contribute to reproductive health and well-being by preventing and solving reproductive health problems. It also includes sexual health, the purpose of which is the enhancement of life and personal relations, and not merely counseling and care related to reproduction and sexually transmitted diseases”. Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development, (UNFPA, 1994)