Family planning program planners often view men as gatekeepers who, if involved in reproductive decisionmaking, will thwart women's efforts to regulate fertility. This study examines fertility decisions made by five generations of one South Indian family and the factors affecting its sudden observed fertility decline. Male involvement in family planning and use of male methods are associated with the fertility decline and resulted in long-term benefits for women. Traditional notions about gender roles and family, in addition to economic concerns, shaped fertility decisionmaking. Individual motivation rather than choice of methods was more important for positive male participation in family planning.
PIP: Family planning program planners tend to assume that men are opposed to family planning and will, if involved in reproductive decision making, prevent women from regulating their fertility. Available data, however, suggest that the most successful family planning programs target men as well as women and promote communication about contraception between spouses. The authors examined fertility decision making across five generations of one middle-class, South Indian, high-caste Brahmin family from the state of Andhra Pradesh and the factors affecting its sudden observed fertility decline. Data were collected through interviews with 77 male and 101 female family members from the five generations. Men in this family were significantly involved in family planning over several generations. Indeed, fertility levels dropped during the periods of greatest male involvement and practically no female involvement in reproductive decision making. Such male involvement has resulted in fertility decline and long-term benefits for women. Traditional notions about gender roles and family, together with economic concerns, shaped fertility decision making. Individual motivation rather than choice of methods was more important for positive male participation in family planning.