Pathways to Women's Empowerment in Contemporary Bangladesh: Fertility, Resources, and Intimate Partner Violence Open Access

Head, Sara Kathleen (2012)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/zk51vh252?locale=en
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Abstract


Abstract
Pathways to Women's Empowerment in Contemporary Bangladesh:
Fertility, Resources, and Intimate Partner Violence
Empirical evidence suggests women's empowerment, defined variously, and fertility mutually
influence one another. Research on this relationship is most abundant in classic patriarchies;
historically in these settings proof of fertility and the birth of sons have been critical for a woman's
social standing and economic security according to women's financial dependence on male relatives,
constrained sexuality, and confinement to the domestic sphere. Social and economic changes are
transforming classic patriarchal systems and have various potential impacts on women's societal role
and pathways to empowerment. This dissertation conducted three studies in one classic patriarchal
setting, Bangladesh, to examine the direct and indirect effects of fertility and other resources on a
fundamental dimension of women's empowerment, household decision making. Study 1 examined
effects of women's cumulative fertility and conformity to community based fertility norms on
empowerment. Findings indicated women's empowerment remains low, and aspects of increased
fertility were negatively associated with empowerment. Study 2 reviewed three mediation models
examining the net effect of fertility on empowerment as mediated by intimate partner violence (IPV).
Results indicated cumulative fertility has only modest influence on empowerment; having at least one
child, though not necessarily a son, remain important for women's empowerment. Study 3 examined
customary and contemporary resources for empowerment. Contemporary resources, specifically,
women's recent employment, non-governmental organization membership, and absence of the
husband had the strongest and most consistent associations with women's empowerment. This
dissertation contributes to our overall understanding of the complex interplay between the demands
of patriarchal structures and women's empowerment, measured via household decision making. In
Bangladesh's rapidly changing environment, fertility remains influential, but contemporary resources
for empowerment such as women's economic participation and household structure are more
strongly associated with empowerment. Efforts to enhance women's empowerment should consider
this changing economic landscape accordingly. Findings may serve to support empowerment efforts
engaged in fertility control and its impact on gender systems. Further research is recommended to
examine fertility and IPV's association with additional dimensions of empowerment and within
societies undergoing demographic transition. Research should also investigate changes in household
power dynamics associated with the presence or absence of the husband.

Table of Contents



Table of Contents

Introductory Literature Review ......................................................................................................................... 1
Literature Review, Figure 1, Conceptual Framework of the Effects of a Woman's Fertility on
her Empowerment. ............................................................................................................................... 3
Study 1: The Effects of Women's Fertility on their Empowerment in Bangladesh ............................... 46
Study 1, Table 1: Sample Characteristics ................................................................................................... 62
Study 1, Table 2: Effects of Fertility on Household Decision Making, Generalized Ordered
Logistic Regression (constrained) ..................................................................................................... 63
Study 1, Figure 1: Predicted Probabilities of Women's Involvement in Household Decision
Making for Individual and Relative Fertility ................................................................................... 64
Study 2: Effects of Women's Fertility on Empowerment and Intimate Partner Violence: A Mediation
Analysis .......................................................................................................................................................... 71
Study 2, Figure 1: Conceptual Fertility-IPV-Empowerment Model .................................................... 86
Study 2, Table 1: Sample Characteristics .................................................................................................. 87
Study 2, Table 2: Fertility-IPV-Empowerment Mediation Models ....................................................... 88
Study 3: Resources for Women's Empowerment via Household Decision Making in Bangladesh ... 95
Study 3, Table 1: Household Decision Making, Individual Indicators ............................................... 112
Study 3, Table 2: Sample Characteristics ................................................................................................. 113
Study 3, Table 3: Resources for Women's Empowerment via Household Decision Making in
Bangladesh ......................................................................................................................................... 114
Conclusion ........................................................................................................................................................ 123




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