head of household

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The adult member of the household who is identified as the principal decision maker. This was traditionally the male head, who was often the principal, or only, income earner. In household interview surveys, this individual may be the respondent for the family, although the mother may be a better source of information about children's nutritional intake and health status. In some situations, the head of the household is asked to give informed consent on behalf of all household members, but this is not ethically acceptable for research involving human subjects. In parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, where HIV/AIDS has decimated adult populations, the head of the household may be the oldest of several preadolescent children. Functionally, sociologists identify several varieties of decision making within families or households. Three simple categories are democratic, in which decision making is discussed by all, and all agree to the decision; autocratic, in which the head of the family or household decides for all without discussion; and autonomous, in which each member of the family or household makes decisions independently of the others.

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology.

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