Editorial Board: Editor: George H. Conklin, North Carolina Central University Board: Bob Davis, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University Richard Dixon, UNC-Wilmington Ken Land, Duke University Miles Simpson, North Carolina Central University Ron Wimberley, N.C. State University Robert Wortham, North Carolina Central University
The Value of Children to
Mohammad Taghi Iman
Many argue that biological reproduction constitutes a basic human instinct, an instinct derived from the need to survive. Even though one may agree that most human needs are rooted in genetic properties, one should acknowledge that they are conditioned by social, emotional, and cultural circumstances. Thus, regardless of where in the world they live and who they might be, almost all human beings show a propensity to have a few offspring (Somers 1993). However, childbearing, childrearing, and their concomitant values vary according to different socio-cultural settings.
Whereas advanced industrialized nations with a high level of income and developed economies can afford to have more children have low fertility rates, they have a better systems of family planning and population control (have become the norm in advanced industrialized nations), whereas developing countries high fertility rates cause many problems for governments in. It seems that one of the most important reasons for this variation is different valuation of children in these countries.
Bestowing value on children varies according to cultural, economic, and demographic structures. How are children valued in Shiraz, Iran? Is there any variation in terms of gender, marital status, and socio-economic standings?
The birth of a child gives rise to a variety of needs and at the same time brings about a variety of outcomes. However, the needs and outcomes are a function of demographic regimes and economic structures within which they occur. In countries with developed economy and a specific population structure, which the age meaen is higher than developing countries, children have a different standing than the one they have in developing countries (Mirzaii 1999). In highly industrialized societies having a child has become a personal matter and those who do not want to have children could remain childless, using effective methods of birth control. Not only social stigmas attached to childlessness have lost their vigor, there have come into existence social values that permit childlessness (e.g., Blake 1974; Somers 1993; Bartlett 1994; Gillespie 2000). Not surprisingly, in those countries the percentage of voluntary childlessness has doubled since the early 1980s so that in 1947 20% of women were still childless at the age of 30 and for women born in 1967 this is estimated to be 40%. In 1991 the office of population census and surveys forecast that 20% of the 1960’s, 1970 and 1980s British cohorts of women would remain childless (Gillespie, 2000).
Using longitudinal data on childlessness Tim Heaton and Cardell K. Jacobson (1999) began to study a sample of 19-39 year old American parents who did not have any children at the start of their study. The majority (45%) of those couples wanted to have children but postponed the procreation of their children for a variety of reasons. A minority (25%) had not made their minds about having any children and 13% was switching from wanting children to not wanting them. Some of those couples that had initially wished to have children at the beginning of the research had decided not to have any children. Some of those couples who had planned not to have any children at the beginning of the research had at least one child. Marital status (married, cohabitants and single noncohabitants) was the strongest predictor of having children. This study found that age, sex, race, education, the socio-economic status, commitment to having a successful marriage; all shape attitudes toward the importance of having a child (Heaton and Jacobson, 1999: 7). According to this study, the present generation is much less decisive in having children than the pervious one. Some couples choose to remain childless, while others delay their decision to have children for such a long time, lowering the likelihood of having any children. In spite of these trends still most couples would like to have children because being childless even in advanced societies is not a desirable status for an individual (ibid.). A few studies show that childless couples are exposed to stigmatization (e.g., Lampman and Dowling-Gier 1995). Park (2002) introduces different strategies that are used by couples who had decided to remain childless. The authors show that some couples use reactive techniques, some challenge the conventional ideology and some redefine childlessness as a socially acceptable/valuable lifestyle.
On the contrary, in developing countries, most planning and propagandas aimed to decrease the fertility rate and emphasize the emotional role of children in families and highlighting economic problems and necessity of being careful about children’s essential rights and needs. Generally the modern life is so that families plan for fewer children in a longer period to afford the cost, increase social status, and enjoy the emotional advantages of having children. In addition, they can invest more capital for each child (Powell and Steelman 1995).
In less developed countries many children live in poverty, have a very limited or no access to medical facilities, and serious deprivation of essential children rights, economic problems have forced many families to opt for fewer children. But in spite of such limitations people still procreate a large number of children. They do so because they view children as a great economic asset (see Ah-Eng 1982; Black 1970; Bonnet 1993; Ennew 1982; Ewer and Grimmins-Gardner 1978; Friedlander et al. 1991; I.L.O. 1996; Machado 1982; Tienda 1979).
In addition to differences on the national level about children centrality, some other variables such as urbanization influence attitudes of the family. In rural areas children have a great economical value. Even small number of children is not acceptable. Rural parents know about some disadvantages like great cost, great physical and mental involvement to children but positive aspects in their view are very strong. Rural children are a source of love, mental satisfaction, and the only source of social security when parents grow old. So their role in the family is essential (Aghajanian and Rajabi 1982 p#). Similarly, in urban areas children are essential for mental life and continuation of family and childlessness is not acceptable at all. Being concerned with old age and widowhood determines economic role of children for urban women. The number of children pertains to economic and emotional cost of children for them.
To want a child is influenced by family attitudes and motivations. Positive values such as love and intimation that is increased between the couple is the most important reasons for children centrality (Reissi, 1997). Variables such as age, sex, the number of children, marriage length, desired dimension of family, income, and education have significant relationship with all or some aspects of children value. Similar researches out of Iran on migrant in U.S (e.g., Jamecard 1978; Friedland 1991) show that parent’s attitudes toward children centrality has more impact on fertility compared with cognitive (awerness about fertility and different contraceptives), emotional, and behavioral variables. Zelizer (1994) studied the ways in which the social value of children has changed. She suggested that the value of children could not be measured by economic factors alone. Children are quite worthless in economic terms, but they are emotionally priceless. Further, some generalized values about children that have become an integral part of society’s normative and moral fabric, compelling us to be concerned not only about our own children but about other people’s children as well. The researcher suggests that future researches must revolve around the impact of change in attitude about the social value of children in the area of public policy (Zelizer 1994).
Most studies have paid attention to the families' rational choices and cost and benefit that couples take into account. Some studies have focused on the role of women in childbearing. Childbearing and motherhood have become an integral part of women’s identity. Motherhood has been viewed as a natural role for women and normal women always have this role in their "personal" and "social" identity. But changes in cultural and social conditions of women in society and they began to be employed in increasing numbers, has changed this familiar image and the idea of "wife-mother-housewife" has been challenged (Gillespie, 2000: 223).
Women's identity has undergone noticeable changes owing to their employment outside their traditional sphere. The consequences have been important not only for women but also for men and the society as a whole. Women entering into the workforce increase the responsibility of "being woman" because men do not take part in "private sphere" as much as women have taken part in "public sphere." However, some studies deny sex differences in attitude toward children centrality (Bulatao 1981; Park 2002). It seems that women see children as an obstacle to their promotion than men do, and thereby wish to have fewer children (Reissi 1997; Black 1970). Another consequence is the change that has occurred in cultural discourse about women and their social experience. some alternative elements like job identity and educational improvement, substitute “being mother” in their identity especially in countries that have gone beyond traditional attitudes about women and their conventional role. This change of attitude appears to be more prevalent among educated women who hold a professional job (Gillespie 2000; Huffman et al. 1978; Jain 1981; Jones and Brayfield 1997).
Robila and Krishnakumar (2003) notice additive effect of attitude toward gender roles and the importance of marriage on the children centrality in seven Eastern European countries. There is a difference at national level. Former East Germany is the most egalitarian, Bulgaria and Hungry as the most traditional and Poland, Slovenia, Russia and the Czech Republic are somewhere in between. The influence of going beyond traditional thinking is not limited to women role but it shows the impact of age and religiosity (Jones and Brayfield, 1997). The previous generation grew up in a more traditional environment characterized by stronger religious beliefs. So they value children more. The primary religious socialization shape childbearing behavior of adults in a way that adults whose mother were Catholic or attended religious services were more likely to resist voluntary childlessness even though they believed that an average American family should have more children (Pearce 2002).
We use rational choice theory, considering women role in new society to investigate children value among parents in Shiraz. According to rational choice theory, human beings opt for actions that maximize benefits and minimize cost. According to the Rational Choice theory: (1) Humans are purposive and goal oriented; (2) Humans have sets of hierarchically ordered performance of utilities; (3) In choosing lines of behavior, humans make rational calculations about the utility of alternative lines of conduct, the cost of each alternative in terms of utilities foregone and the best way to maximize utility; and (4) Emergent social phenomena (social structures, collective decisions and collective behavior) are ultimately the result of rational choices made by utility-maximizing individuals (Turner, 1998: 304).
These principals show that how the value of children should be assessed by men, women, and different occupational groups. For example “being mother” is an identity element for women in every culture, including Iran. So women value children more. women employment will has its impact on it because it can offer alternative elements to women which suggest more social and economical benefits. So having a child goes down in the hierarchy of preferences. Age, socio-economic status, religiosity, life experiences like marriage and having a child can change conditions for an individual and result in different outcomes of their rational calculations. They make differences in explanations and purposes for having children or offer some alternatives to achieve long-term goals in their life.
We hypothesized that there is a significant relationship between attitudes toward value of children and the following variables: age, gender, family size, marital status, religiosity, socio-economic status, and women’s employment/professional occupation. We also hypothesized that couples that have children differ significantly in valuing children that those couples who do not have children.
We used the survey method to collect data for this research. The population under study consisted of households who resided in Shiraz urban areas. According to 1975 census, 226,751 households lived in the urban areas of Shiraz. We employed Coocran Formula to draw the sample population of this study that with a 95% level of significance included 384 households. Respondents were between fifteen and sixty-nine year old, with a mean age of 35.98 year old. The questionnaire included thirty-seven questions (see appendix I; footnote: originally we had designed thirty-nine questions, from which we dropped two questions that were vague after we conducted a pilot study [pretest] distributing thirty questionnaires (We chose indicators for measuring independent variable using Aghaganian and Rajabi (1985) and Jones and Brayfield (1997)) operationalizing them using the Likert Scale. We designed twenty questions to measure social, economic, and emotional value of children. After pre-test, we dropped two questions that seemed vague and the rest of the questions were employed to measure the dependent variable. Independent variables include age, sex, occupation, religiosity, and socio-economic status were measured either by one or more questions. First, three variables asked directly, religiosity is measured by 13 questions (cognitive and behavioral aspect of being religious) and socio-economic status made by calculating the sum of standard scores of education, income, and occupation (We consulted five specialists from in Shiraz University to confirm face validity of the questionnaire ). Chronbach alfa coefficient evaluated each scale for reliability. The result was 0.54 for social value, 0.74 for economic value, 0.78 for emotional value, and 0.91 for religiosity.
We distributed 400 questionnaires among households respondents in Shiraz and 397 questionnaires were returned. The age of respondents was between 15 and 69 (mean=35.98), Of 397 respondents 195 were female and 202 male, 260 were married, 116 were single and 20 live without their spouse 5.5 percent of respondents were illiterate and 26.7 percent had not finished high school. 37.8 percent graduated from secondary school and 10.3 percent had two years of higher education. 31.8 percent had higher education. Income: 30 percent of respondents earned 510,000-1,000,000 Rials a month. 24.9 percent earned 1,001,000 to 1,500,000 Rials and the others( 42.3%) had 1510000 to 3500000 rials per month. Only 2.8 percent had more than 3,510,000 Rials a month. On the average, the respondents earned 289,701.57 Rials per month. Most respondents had low rank jobs (25.9%). Job rank was determined using the table proposed by Iranian Statistical Center. Table 1 shows the distribution of job and income of respondents.
The questions measuring the value of children for respondents and the responses are shown in Tables 2, 3 and 4.
As Tables 2, 3 and 4 show seven questions were asked to measure the emotional value of children (mean= 15.49, S.D.= 4.5). Three questions measured the economic value (mean= 7.1, S.D.= 2.4) and six questions the social value (mean= 15.28, S.D.= 3.89). The overall value of children so measured by 18 items (mean= 36.61, S.D.= 3.9). Tables 2-4 show that the respondents see their children more in emotional way as if scores between 7 to 16 shows low emotional value, 17-25 average emotional value and 26-30 high emotional value therefore 62.9 percent of respondents appear to demonstrate high emotional value for their children. In the social aspect the majority see a moderate value for children. The economic value of children is very high and 47.6 percent of respondents consider high economic value for children.
Hypotheses and Results
Hypothesis One: There are significant gender differences in attitudes toward children value.
Because of women's traditional role childrearing and the idea about their emotionality, it seems that children are more valuable for them. But the result of T-Test (Table 5) shows that there is no sex difference in the attitudes about the value of children.
Hypothesis Two: Employed women, especially those with professional jobs, will evaluate children differently.
According to feminist theories, professional occupations can provide identity supports for women. So attitudes toward the centrality of children are less positive in comparison to household women or unemployed ones. We use one-way ANOVA to test the hypotheses. First, we consider job rank to be four categories: Professional jobs (rank 1-5), average ranks (rank 6-9) and low rank jobs (rank 10-14) and finally household women as a separate category. Table 6 shows the frequency of women's job rank and the result of the statistics.
F ratio results show that there is a significant difference in emotional and social value according to job rank. The overall value is different among them too. Women with professional jobs are significantly different from those who have low rank job. Women's job rank has not any impact on their attitude toward children in the economical aspect. The results indicate that having professional jobs has an impact on the attitude.
Hypothesis Three: There is a significant relationship between age and the degree of bestowing value on children.
Pearson correlations (Table 7) show that only emotional value has a significant relationship to the age.
Hypothesis Four: There is a significant difference between singles and ever-married in relation to valuing children.
We used one-way ANOVA to explore the difference between attitudes toward children value due to marital status (Table 8).
Marital status has a significant impact on the overall but especially the emotional value of children. In the emotional dimension singles have more posetive attitude about children. Table 8 shows that the mean for singles is higher than married couples in emotional aspect. Economic value, estimate differently according to the marital status. In this dimension, the main difference is between married persons and those who live without their spouse. The latter value their children more than the former. Also married persons and singles are different in this aspect. Surprisingly, singles value children more than the married. Social value does not change significantly according to marital status. But the impact of marital status has a considerable on the overall value of children and it is due to the difference between singles and married respondents.
Economic value is more important for those who live without their spouse. It can be said that financial security has a high priority for them. But in total value we see the difference between married and singles and the third group has not any significant relationship with them.
Hypothesis Five: There is a significant attitudinal difference in valuing children between those who have and who do not have children.
We made a dummy variable to distinguish the respondent who have a child (value=1) and who do not (value=0). Table 9 shows the results of T- Test of children value according to this dummy variable.
The results show that the experience of already having raised a child increases the social and emotional, and consequently the overall value of children significantly, but it does not have any impact on economic value The hypothesis has been supported in the opposite way.
Hypothesis Six: Socio-economic status has a significant relationship with attitudes toward the value of children.
We have measured our respondents' socio-economic status using job rank, education, and family income. The standardized scores added together and made a component that shows the socio-economic status. The correlation between these scores and different aspects of the valuation of children is shown in Table 10.
All correlations are statistically significant.
Hypothesis Seven: Religiosity has a significant relationship with attitudes toward children value.
Iran has a religious culture indeed and religiosity has a great impact on every dimension of life. Children value is an attitude which has some roots in every religion by different points of view. Islam sees children as God's gifts and advice to have children and raise them as real Moslems. Table 11 shows the relationship between religiosity and different aspects of children value.
As expected, religiosity has a significant relationship with all aspects of children value. It relates to the overall value of children as well. So being religious is strongly related to the way one values children.
Hypothesis Eight: There is a significant relationship between family size and attitudes toward the value of children.
We assume that there would be a positive correlation between family size and valuing children.
Economic value of children has a negative but weak relationship with the number of children in the family also total value. The financial cost of having children calls for reducing family size. The number of children also related to the overall value of children negatively. It supports our hypotheses but the strength of the correlation is relatively low.
The study confirms our hypothesis that there is no gender difference in valuing children, i.e., men and women value children equally. the results show that change in attitudes about appropriate role of women in society among them. Because in more traditional views children value is very high for them. Social context can affect on the way of presentation and reaction of woman about gender socialization and chances or threats of having children. More analysis about relationship between women job rank and attitudes about children value show that there is a significant different between who has a professional job and women who has low job ranks. This difference is existed in emotional and social aspect of children value. There is a more emphasis on changing attitudes about children value for women this change is due to women employment and education. So our hypothesis is supported strongly.
There was no significant relationship between age and attitudes about children value. All age groups saw their children in the same way. This is also the case for emotional value. We assumed differences for different cohorts due to different socialization but results show that social circumstances along with living in a modern society cause resocialization for older persons so that they think about their children in agreement to the next generation.
The experience of marriage had a significant impact on attitudes toward children value. F ratio shows that only in social aspect the difference cannot be seen. tukey tests reveals that emotional value decreased with the experience of marriage and economic value increased with absence of the spouse. The overall value is the highest for those who live without their spouse; and it is the lowest for married people.
To the people who live lonely,, children seen a capital to support them in their life. but for the others the cost of having children are more highlighted. So the economic value is lower for them (they have each other). This is also the case for the overall value.
Attitude toward children value was different due to experience of having a child so that emotional and social value of children increased when there is at least a child. This… suggests that after a child is born, people pay more attention to the positive aspect of having a child than the cost.
SES shows a significant
relationship with social value only. It means that the higher the SES the
higher the perception for social value of children.
The overall value of children has an impact on family dimension so that the higher the number of children, the higher their value. In addition, the number of children has significant relationship with economic value in the opposite way as expected. .
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