Human Fertility in Latin America: Sociological Perspectives

By J. Mayone Stycos | Go to book overview
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8 Haitian. Attitudes toward Family Size
Over the past decade results from studies of attitudes toward family size have been surprisingly similar. When lower-income, poorly educated women are asked for their ideal family size or the number of children they desire, the responses cluster around three or four children. Such surveys have heartened those interested in population control, and have convinced many social scientists that motivational aspects present only minor obstacles to public acceptance of birth control. However, there are a number of reasons for raising questions about highly optimistic conclusions in this regard.
1. Studies by the writer and his colleagues show that high proportions of the women who state family size preferences also admit that they have never thought about this question before.
2. Such studies also disclose a high degree of ambivalence about numbers of children. Respondents are able to agree with contradictory statements about family size.
3. There is some evidence that public and private opinions concerning family size may differ, private opinion favoring small families, public opinion favoring large. Since interviews are characteristically conducted "in private," the opinions elicited may be biased in this direction. Actually, public opinions may be at least as influential as private in predicting behavior, especially in the village culture of underdeveloped countries.
4. There is also the possibility that the converse of the above


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