The Value of Sons and Daughters among the Gurungs in Nepal

By Tiwari, Narayani | Contributions to Nepalese Studies, January 2006 | Go to article overview

The Value of Sons and Daughters among the Gurungs in Nepal


Tiwari, Narayani, Contributions to Nepalese Studies


Introduction

This paper (1) addresses the issue on the value of sons and daughters in the Gurung village where the fieldwork was carried out. The conceptual framework of this paper is based on theoretical literature about the fertility transition. In the literatures, questions are raised about the relationship between fertility and value of children, as well as the relationship of high fertility with preference for sons or daughters. In this paper, the value of children and the preference for sons or daughters is placed in the context of household activities and the role of sons and daughters in those activities.

Literature review and conceptual framework

The value of children in Nepal involves certain socio-economic, cultural and religious factors, which sometimes conflict with the interests of the family and the inheritance rules. The values attached to the role of sons and daughters can influence fertility trends. Various factors are responsible for the fertility patterns and changes in Nepal and elsewhere. Many demographers (Davis and Blake 1956; Bongaarts 1978; Freedman 1987; Jones 1990; Caldwell 1996; Cleland 1993; Voland 1998; Crow and Allan, 2001; Singh et al., 2003) have noted factors affecting fertility through proximate variables (Bongaarts 1978) or intermediate variables. These can be clustered into three groups: first, variables relating exposure to intercourse; second, variables relating to conception; and, third, variables relating to pregnancy outcome (Jones, 1990). Age at marriage is an important variable in the first cluster, the use of contraception is an important one in the second cluster and socioeconomic and cultural factors affecting fertility are placed in the third cluster.

Authors like Karki (1988), Niraula and Morgan (1995) and Riley, (1999) have reported that the meaning of masculinity and femininity in patriarchal society is often such that it contributes the population growth. The meanings and value attached to masculinity and femininity will influence parental investments in sons and daughters. While the latter should be equal, this is often not the case (Sieff, 1990; Casimir and Dutilh, 2003). Also the status of women, their fertility choices and gender preferences have direct effect on fertility U ends in any country.

Due to socioeconomic and cultural differences, the demand for and the value of children vary between the developing and developed countries. Freedman (1974) observed that the preferred number of sons is relatively high in many Asian countries. The decisions on whether to have a child and on how to share education, food, work, health care and local resources are in large measure made locally at the household level (Dasgupta 1995). Children are needed for household chores, but sometimes they are also regarded as a nuisance because they put emotional strain and an economic burden on their parents (Bulatao 1979). Bulatao further added the demands of more work create problems for disciplining children and worrying about their future increases parents' aspirations to make good provisions for their Children or to make them more successful in the family.

Demographic transition is one of the most important theories in demography. It was developed in relation to the European demographic history before being applied to recent population change in the Third World (Jones 1990; Caldwell 1991; McDonald 1993). The demographic transition. theory describes the change from high levels of fertility sad mortality to low levels of birth and death rates as a traditional, rural or pre-modern society develops into an urbanized and industrialized modern society (Caldwell 1991; Jones 2003). The goal to reduce fertility in many developing countries resulted in strengthening family planning programs (Cleland 1993). Fertility regulation has thus been an important element of population policy throughout the world (Alam 1993).

Caldwell and Mackensen (1980) observed that the high fertility has greatest economic value in family-based production, like traditional agrarian subsistence farming. …

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