Modelling the influence of communication on fertility behaviour of women in rural Bangladesh
The total fertility rate in Bangladesh declined from 6.3 children per women in 1975 to 3.3 in 1997-1999. This decline of 48 per cent over a 25-year period occurred without a substantial improvement in socio-economic status, health conditions and other factors thought to be essential for fertility decline. In this thesis it is postulated that current fertility behaviour is a manifestation of ideational change, which has occurred through mass media and interpersonal communication channels. To investigate the influence of communication on fertility behaviour and to control for demographic and socioeconomic and cultural variables, 724 married women of reptoductive age were interviewed from six rural villages of the six administrative divisions of Bangladesh. Another village was surveyed to compare the influence of religion. Data were collected in a full network basis in that one currently married woman with at least one child from each household of the entire village was interviewed. Sociometric data along with socio-economic-cultural and family planning practice data were collected using a structured questionnaire. The data have been analysed using statistical methods to construct models of factors, which influence the total number of children a woman has and those that determine the likelihood that a woman practices family planning. The main influencing variables to explain the total number of children were found to be wife's age, age at first child bom, number of family members, demand for male children, demand for female children, death of male children, place of giving birth, housing score, religion, equipment score, land property, FWA and information score. Whereas the influencing variables to explain the family planning practice were demand for male children, death of male children and variables connected with communication such as degree of interpersonal communication, mass media exposure, husband, Family Welfare Assistants (FWAs) and frequency of discussion with FWAs. Communication variables, especially interpersonal communication, were found to be most important in explaining family planning practice. More particularly, the dominant source of general information is relatives and friends. FWAs followed by friends and relatives are the main source of family planning information that along with husband influence fertility decisions. Hence, there was a need to ftu-ther understand the web of interactions among individuals, peer groups and opinion leaders using social network analysis. The web of communication links in which an individual exists and takes fertility decision was then modeled with the collected sociometric data. To do this, three matrices were constructed to reflect any communication link, the strength of these links and approval of family planning. Various centrality measures (in-degree, out-degree, betweenness and power), clique patterns and actors positions in the network were produced and analysed using Ucinet-6. This revealed that the actors who were not strongly connected or exist in the periphery of this web tended not to practice family planning. Also it was found that actors who overlap more than one clique are more likely to practice family planning. Variables created from the centrality measures were then added to the regression models for the total number of children and the use of family planning. In both the cases sociometric variables were found significant which ftirther enhanced the explanation of fertility behaviour of the women in rural Bangladesh. Using Structural Equation Models the direct and indirect effects of these variables were determined. Demographic, socio-economic-cultural variables were more directly associated in explaining total number of children while communication variables were directly associated in explaining family planning use, and family planning practice has a direct influence on the number of children born. Thus, as communication directly influences family planning practice it has an indirect influence on the Total Fertility Rate. From this work it is recommended that the service that was provided by the FWAs be reestablished and strengthened, husbands should be targeted in family planning motivation programmes and male contraceptive methods should be promoted. Also more motivational programmes should be incorporated in family planning programmes to create a positive image of female children and the extent of the social interaction among village women should be increased.