n Gender and Behaviour - Son preference and its consequences (a review)




Son preference is one of the oldest issues in most of the societies with special reference to sons being getting preferential treatment over daughters in South Asia and developing countries. Women usually didn't get proper regard in their husbands' families until and unless they had a son in most of the societies. Numerous factors affecting son preference were socio-economic setup of the society, cultural beliefs, literacy, lesser opportunities for women jobs, cultural restrictions on women, family size, males' dominance and their validity as earning heads of the households and intact/shared relations with the family as compared to daughters who would otherwise leave their families soon after getting married. Daughter's birth in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan was considered as an economic liability because of the dowry system and the higher incurring cost on their weddings. Son preference was found to be stronger in areas where daughters were more expensive to marry owing to the dowry system. Cultural preference for sons was evident from that fact that in Hindu's traditions, only sons could pray for and release the souls of their dead parents and only males could perform birth, death and marriage rituals. Although, son preference was stronger, some 98% of the women in Bangladesh wanted to have at least one daughter realizing the importance of women in a house for household activities and perpetuation of generation. A common perception of son's preference on daughter was the ascribed ability of sons; to contribute more to family income, provide adequate support to parents in old age; carry on family name and impose minimal financial burdens on their parents. Women's employment problems and male inheritance also favored son preference in Taiwan. Excessive infant mortality in females was due to discrimination against females in the allocation of food and health care within the household. Aside from male's attitude towards son preference, women their-self in most of the south Asian countries preferred sons to daughters. In addition, women were having few opportunities to generate income and invest household resources in female children as compared to males, thereby further widening the chances for son preference. Preferential son treatment may lead to larger family size and higher fertility if there is increased incidence of female births. Emphasis on women education and employment, giving them due status in the society and creating awareness among the people to treat son and daughter alike would be better options to eliminate frustration, reduce fertility rate and limit family size.


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