Gender and cultural influences on reproductive decision-making and fertility trends in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Jamal-Hariri, Engee A.
Cardiff Metropolitan University
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This thesis presents a critical examination of dynamic fertility trends and reproductive behaviour in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. This is established through the following four objectives: to establish a comprehensive understanding of the relationship between gender system and reproductive behaviour; to determine the role of cultural, religion and social networks in influencing family planning decisions; to analyse the changes that occurred in fertility trends in a period of 8 years (2005-2013); and to describe the function of using innovative methods in achieving such a sensitive study in a conservative society. This study applied a mixed methodology, including a repeated questionnaire survey over a period of 8 years, and in-depth interviews. It was found that an early age of marriage is common and regarded as advantageous to the future of women. Moreover, this study reveals that Saudis place great and high value on children, as children represent the flow of wealth from children to parents. Thus, the preferred family size is relatively large (4 children) and both parents have a preference for male children. Moreover, the study reveals that the traditional division of labour assigns women the responsibility of taking care of children. Also, it was found that even though many women found difficulties in discussing reproductive issues with their spouse, discussing fertility issues reduced family size. Men are predominantly in control of reproductive decision-making in the family, although when fertility decisions were mutual, family size declined. A higher socioeconomic status promoted shared fertility decisions. Further, this study shows that there is a high level of diffusion of contraceptive knowledge and practices among study respondents and their social networks. However, planning family size is not a very common practice among study respondents and having a large family is seen to be complying with a religious Islamic duty, and reflects pride toward kinship relationships. It was also found that the extended family provides a supporting motive for parents to have a large family. However, the latest survey, of 2013, revealed some positive changes in gender structure that could contribute to greater gender equality, such as a rise in the age of marriage for both genders, more involvement of males in household responsibility, an increase in mutual decision-making and practice of planning for family size.
PhD Thesis- Sociology
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