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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2017

Sayantani Chatterjee*
International Institute for Population Sciences, Mumbai, India
Anshul Kastor
International Institute for Population Sciences, Mumbai, India
1Corresponding author. Email:


Reproduction in India is mainly confined to within marriage. The fertility preferences of spouses will not necessarily be the same, but discussion between couples creates scope for understanding between spouses after marriage. Knowing each other’s opinions facilitates decision-making on sensitive matters such as contraception use and desired family size. This study used data from the India Human Development Survey-II (2011–12), and was based on a sample of 31,276 currently married women. The aim was to understand the role of pre-marital communication, studied through the choosing of husbands, mutual communication before marriage and duration of time spouses knew each other before marriage on the fertility preferences of couples post-marriage. These preferences included contraception use, who has most say on the number of children and the gap between desired and actual number of offspring. The results showed that wives who knew their husbands or who had any kind of communication with them before marriage had a greater chance of being involved in fertility decisions. However, most fertility decisions were found to be male-driven. Wives who knew their husbands for more than a month before marriage took more decisions on number of children (27%) than those who only knew their husbands from the day of their wedding (20%). Wives were less likely to have more children/sons/daughters than desired if they had some communication with their husbands before marriage. A better understanding of fertility preferences between spouses might help to curb unwanted births through delaying or limiting births by contraception use. Families in India could encourage couples to interact before marriage so they can make collective decisions on contraception use and/or the number of children they have.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press, 2017 

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