Son preference, an ongoing concern in India, is a known driver of ideal family size preferences and contraceptive use among couples. These associations can vary substantially with parity and can influence men and women differently. This study assesses the association of sex composition of children by parity and a) men's higher ideal family size preference relative to women and b) use of modern contraceptives by couples.
We used the Couples Recode dataset from National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 2015-16 and identified couples who had at least one child and had complete responses for variables used in the study (N = 56,731 couples). We developed multivariable linear and logistic regression models to study the association between sex composition of children by parity and our dependent variables.
Our findings indicate that the sex composition of children is associated with men's higher ideal family size preference, relative to women, among couples with four or more children. We also find that couples with less than four children are less likely to use modern contraceptives when they have an equal or a greater number of daughters than sons compared to those who have no daughters. Findings suggest that couples with four or more children are more likely to use modern contraceptives when they have at least one son and one daughter and are less likely to use contraceptives when they have all daughters and no sons, than couples who have no daughters.
This study contributes to existing research on the relationship between sex composition of children with ideal family size preferences and contraceptive use by highlighting meaningful differences between higher and lower parity couples. Findings from the study can be used by family planning programs in India to customize family planning counselling messages by both sex composition and parity.