Family Size Ideals in Pakistan: Preparing for an Uncertain Future

Anushka Ataullahjan
Zubia Mumtaz, University of Alberta

Preference for a large family in Pakistan has proved to be a barrier to increasing contraceptive uptake. Despite the efforts of the Pakistani Family Planning Program, an ideal family size of four children has persisted for the last two decades. A significant body of literature has sought to unpack these ideals in Pakistan highlighting the importance of financial insecurity, and son preference. Missing, however, is an in-depth investigation of the social, economic, political, and cultural contexts in which family size ideals are embedded. I drew upon 13 months’ of ethnographic data from a village in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to situate family size ideals within their wider context. My findings demonstrate that respondents’ preference for larger families with several sons was an attempt to manage the uncertainty of daily life as structured by their class positionality and a geopolitical context characterized by an increased risk of death due to insecurity and conflict.

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 Presented in Session 8. Fertility in Developing Countries