Managing the Birth Interval: Child Spacing

in Contingent Lives

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print July 2002 | ISBN: 9780226058511
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226058504 | DOI:
Managing the Birth Interval: Child Spacing

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This chapter examines the birth interval in the Gambia: the small, apparently nondescript duration that separates one birth from the next. The central theme is a critique of the natural fertility paradigm's minimalist views of intentionalities with respect to birth intervals specifically and to reproductive behaviors generally. The natural fertility framework has presumed that in societies where people do not want to limit children, fertility levels will reflect the rhythms produced by biology in combination with local custom. Contraceptives, which are used to limit fertility, will play no role or a minimal one. Efforts to space children's births at safe temporal distances from one another have drawn some of the most detailed attention in the demography of developing countries. The findings on child spacing undermined static depictions of women as being of one type or another: users, nonusers, or spacers. The problem in conventional analyses of contraceptive use has been that users and nonusers are treated as distinct groups of people, when contraceptive use is instead a temporary role. Numerous demographic works have tried to be sensitive to cultural temporalities of sexuality according to the most recent child's development and feeding progress in societies that pay scant attention to age.

Keywords: birth interval; natural fertility; childbirth; sexuality; contraceptive

Chapter.  15625 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Anthropology

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