Skip to main content


  • Sayantani Chatterjee (a1) and Anshul Kastor (a1)

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.

Corresponding author
1 Corresponding author. Email:
Hide All
Bankole, A. (1995) Desired fertility and fertility behaviour among the Yoruba of Nigeria: a study of couple preferences and subsequent fertility. Population Studies 49(2), 317328.
Beckman, L. J. (1983) Communication, power, and the influence of social networks in couple decisions on fertility. In Bulatao, R. A. & Lee, R. D. (eds) Determinants of Fertility in Developing Countries, Vol 2. Academic Press, New York, pp. 5490.
Bongaarts, J. (1978) A framework for analyzing the proximate determinants of fertility. Population and Development Review 4(1), 105132.
Bongaarts, J. (1983) The proximate determinants of natural marital fertility. In Bulatao, R. A. & Lee, R. D., (eds) Determinants of Fertility in Developing Countries: A Summary of Knowledge. National Academy Press, Washington, DC.
Bongaarts, J. (2001) Fertility and reproductive preferences in post-transitional societies. Population and Development Review 27, 260281.
Boulay, M. & Valente, T. W. (1999) The relationship of social affiliation and interpersonal discussion to family planning knowledge, attitudes and practice. International Family Planning Perspectives 25(3), 112138.
Bulatao, R. A. (1981) Values and disvalues of children in successive childbearing decisions. Demography 18(1), 125.
Bulatao, R. A. & Lee, R. D. (eds) (1983) An overview of fertility determinants in developing countries. In Bulatao, R. A. & Lee, R. D. (eds) Determinants of Fertility in Developing Countries Vol. 2. Academic Press, New York, pp. 757787.
Cain, M. T. (1978) The household life cycle and economic mobility in rural Bangladesh. Population and Development Review 4(3), 421438.
Caldwell, J. C. (1982) Theory of fertility decline. In Bulatao, R. A. & Lee, R. D. (eds) Determinants of Fertility in Developing Countries, Vol. 1. Academic Press, New York.
Caldwell, J. C. (1983) Direct economic costs and benefits of children. In Bulatao, R. A. & Lee, R. D. (eds) Determinants of Fertility in Developing Countries. Academic Press, New York.
Caldwell, J. C. & Caldwell, P. (1976) Demographic and contraceptive innovators: a study of transitional African society. Journal of Biosocial Science 8(4), 347365.
Davis, K. & Blake, J. (1956) Social structure and fertility: an analytic framework. Economic Development and Cultural Change 4(3), 211235.
Dharmalingam, A., Rajan, S. & Morgan, S. P. (2014) The determinants of low fertility in India. Demography 51(4), 14511475.
Eberstadt, N. N. (ed.) (1981) Fertility Decline in the Less Developed Countries. Praeger Publishers, New York.
Feyisetan, B. J. (2000) Spousal communication and contraceptive use among the Yoruba of Nigeria. Population Research and Policy Review 19(1), 2945.
Feyisetan, B. J., Oyediran, K. A. & Ishola, G. P. (1998) The Role of Men in Family Planning in Imo State of Nigeria. Population Research Fund Management Unit, Nigerian Institute of Social and Economic Research.
Ghosh, S. (2017) Second demographic transition or aspirations in transition: an exploratory analysis of lowest-low fertility in Kolkata, India. Asian Population Studies 13(1), 2549.
Isiugo-Abanihe, U. C. (1994) Reproductive motivation and family size preferences among Nigerian men. Studies in Family Planning 25(3), 149161.
Klima, C. S. (1998) Unintended pregnancy: consequences and solutions for a worldwide problem. Journal of Nurse Midwifery 43(6), 483491.
Mason, K. O. (1986) The status of women: conceptual and methodological issues in demographic studies. Sociological Forum 1(2), 284300.
Muhoza, D. N., Broekhuis, A. & Hooimeijer, P. (2014) Variations in desired family size and excess fertility in East Africa. International Journal of Population Research. URL:
Odusola, A. F., Oyediran, K. A., Bogunjoko, J. O. & Adeyemo, J. A. (1998) Adjustment Policies Gender Dynamics and Family Size Reduction in Nigeria: A Case Study of Kaduna State. Population Research Fund Management Unit, Nigerian Institute of Social and Economic Research.
Oyediran, K., Isiugo-Abanihe, U. C. & Bankole, A. (2006) Correlates of spousal communication on fertility and family planning among the Yoruba of Nigeria. Journal of Comparative Family Studies 37(3), 441460.
Prakash, R. & Singh, A. (2014) Who marries whom? Changing mate selection preferences in urban India and emerging implications on social institutions. Population Research and Policy Review 33(2), 205227.
Preston, S. H. (1978) The Effects of Infant and Child Mortality on Fertility. Academic Press, New York.
Raj, A., Saggurti, N., Balaiah, D. & Silverman, J. G. (2009) Prevalence of child marriage and its effect on fertility and fertility-control outcomes of young women in India: a cross-sectional, observational study. The Lancet 373(9678), 18831889.
Rele, J. R. (1962) Some aspects of family and fertility in India. Population Studies 15(3), 267278.
Rutenberg, N. & Watkins, S. C. (1997) The buzz outside the clinics: conversations and contraception in Nyanza Province, Kenya. Studies in Family Planning 28(4), 290307.
Short, S. E. & Kiros, G. E. (2002) Husbands, wives, sons, and daughters: fertility preferences and the demand for contraception in Ethiopia. Population Research and Policy Review 21(5), 377402.
Van de Walle, E. (1968) Marriage and marital fertility. Daedalus 97(2), 486501.
Zelnik, M. & Kantner, J. F. (1979) Reasons for nonuse of contraception by sexually active women aged 15–19. Family Planning Perspectives 11(5), 289296.
Zulu, E. M. (1998) The role of men and women in decision making about reproductive issues in Malawi. African Population Policy Research Center Working Papers No. 2. Population Council, Nairobi.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of Biosocial Science
  • ISSN: 0021-9320
  • EISSN: 1469-7599
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-biosocial-science
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *

Related content

Powered by UNSILO


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed