Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Factors Affecting Birth Spacing among the Agrarian Families in a North Jordanian Village

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Factors Affecting Birth Spacing among the Agrarian Families in a North Jordanian Village

Article excerpt


Birth spacing, the time period between subsequent births, has received great attention by both anthropologists and sociologists for a number of reasons; from an empirical standpoint, it can affect the rate of growth of a population through the effect on the average time between generations and through impact on the health of the child in its early years. Also, many behavioral responses to socioeconomic conditions may come in the timing of birth (Newman, 1983). Researchers have explored various aspects in this area, such as the reproductive pattern and its association with birth spacing (Morgan and Rind, 1999), and social class and birth spacing (Freese et al., 1999). Other studies which investigated the relationship between birth spacing and economic strategies, such as Howell 1979; Lee 1979; Blurton Jones 1978 are focused on the hunter-gatherers but suggested that other strategies remained to be explored. Madrigal (1993) emphasized the fact that demographic studies repeatedly indicate that human births tend to fluctuate according to a seasonal pattern, particularly in agricultural groups, albeit the geographical variations that have been frequently reported.

In this paper, I will investigate birth spacing among agriculturalists in a northern Jordanian village. My goal is to see how the economic strategy (agriculture) affected the interval between subsequent births. Beyond seasonality, my paper will consider the time and effort invested in agriculture as one of the major factors in determining the length of birth spacing. I hypothesized that the area of cultivated land owned by agricultural families affected birth spacing such that if an agricultural family cultivated large areas of land, it tended to have short interbirth intervals, while a family that cultivated small areas of land had long interbirth intervals.


This study was conducted in al-Mazar village, 15 km north of the city of Irbid in Jordan. Geographically, it lies on mountains of about 1000 km above sea level; the area is dominated by the Mediterranean climate, which is rainy from November to March, with an estimated precipitation of about 20 inches per year, and dry for the rest of the year (Nyrop, 1974). Areas of arable land are limited and located 6-8 km from the village, while the closer lands are difficult to cultivate because they need more workers and effort due to the factors of low soil depth and the uneven terrain. The latter also made transportation of the harvested crops an extremely difficult process.

Farmers in the village grow grapes, olives and figs in the mountains, while wheat, barley and lentils are the main crops of the plains. The methods used in cultivating and harvesting are absolutely dependent on pre-industrial technologies, such as the use of sickles, axes and hoes, which demand more hands to operate in the field as well as more time.

The size of the crops planted is also affected by expectations of market demands and predictions of production costs and prices. Bani Hani (1996) found that the agriculture production in Jordan is also affected by the absence of appropriate incentives such as tax subsidies, and the high cost of production due to an increase in the cost of labor.


The compilation of the data had been completed by the year 1998. Data collection was done through two means; the first one is the fieldwork. I observed and participated with the farmers in the village while performing various agricultural tasks like ploughing the land using animals, harvesting, tilling with hoes, sowing the seeds and collecting the fruits. The previous tasks are time related - therefore, a whole season was needed to collect the data. Each season started in October by ploughing the land and then sowing, January is the time for pruning the trees before blooming; wheat and barley are harvested in June, figs and grapes collected in August and September, and olives are picked from October to December. …

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