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Demography. 1985 May;22(2):169-83.

Birth spacing and fertility limitation: a behavioral analysis of a nineteenth century frontier population.


Our analysis of changing birth interval distributions over the course of a fertility transition from natural to controlled fertility has examined three closely related propositions. First, within both natural fertility populations (identified at the aggregate level) and cohorts following the onset of fertility limitation, we hypothesized that substantial groups of women with long birth intervals across the individually specified childbearing careers could be identified. That is, even during periods when fertility behavior at the aggregate level is consistent with a natural fertility regime, birth intervals at all parities are inversely related to completed family size. Our tabular analysis enables us to conclude that birth spacing patterns are parity dependent; there is stability in CEB-parity specific mean and birth interval variance over the entire transition. Our evidence does not suggest that the early group of women limiting and spacing births was marked by infecundity. Secondly, the transition appears to be associated with an increasingly larger proportion of women shifting to the same spacing schedules associated with smaller families in earlier cohorts. Thirdly, variations in birth spacing by age of marriage indicate that changes in birth intervals over time are at least indirectly associated with age of marriage, indicating an additional compositional effect. The evidence we have presented on spacing behavior does not negate the argument that parity-dependent stopping behavior was a powerful factor in the fertility transition. Our data also provide evidence of attempts to truncate childbearing. Specifically, the smaller the completed family size, the longer the ultimate birth interval; and ultimate birth intervals increase across cohorts controlling CEB and parity. But spacing appears to represent an additional strategy of fertility limitation. Thus, it may be necessary to distinguish spacing and stopping behavior if one wishes to clarify behavioral patterns within a population (Edlefsen, 1981; Friedlander et al., 1980; Rodriguez and Hobcraft, 1980). Because fertility transition theories imply increased attempts to limit family sizes, it is important to examine differential behavior within subgroups achieving different family sizes. It is this level of analysis which we have attempted to achieve in utilizing parity-specific birth intervals controlled by children ever born.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS).

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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