The value of children in the context of the family in Java / by Paul A. Meyer Meyer, Paul A

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Meyer, Paul A
Children - Indonesia - Java.; Families - Indonesia - Java.; Family size - Indonesia - Java.
The island of Java is a well-known example of how a largely agrarian population has steadily increased in size and accommodated to resulting pressures on limited resources. This thesis examines the "people" side of this relationship, and focuses on the motivations of parents regarding childbearing. The data from the Java Value of Children Study are analyzed and compared with the findings of a number of community studies in order to discover the roles of children in the family and the ways they are valued. Measures of ten general values and costs of children from the VOC Study indicate that the economic benefits from children are most important for rural, poorer families, while higher-status parents view children as sources of personal enjoyment and pleasure. The financial costs of rearing children are recognized by all groups as a major consideration, and (together with current parity) this variable is found to be significantly related to stated ideal family size. The desires for children of different birth orders are assessed by an analysis incorporating parity-specific measures of the values and costs of children. Family-building values - the desire for a child of a certain sex, for a companion for older children, or for an object of love and affection - are found to predict the number of additional children parents want to have. The desire for more children in turn is negatively related to approval of family planning. On the basis of these findings and those of the various community studies, households in Java are seen to operate more efficiently for meeting their goals of welfare, comfort, and security by being of a size large enough to allow collective efforts for increasing income, protecting assets, and maintaining social standing. The costs of more than three or four children are important constraints for most families, however, and this is particularly true when births are closely spaced. Unrestricted fertility is therefore not seen as advantageous by parents in Java, and recent declines in fertility can be interpreted as being the result of such realizations. Further declines in fertility may occur because of rapid social changes, particularly those affecting the roles and positions of children in the family, but the need for a well-organized household indicates that there will be a continuing demand by parents for children above replacement levels.
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