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Your Mother-In-Law May Affect Your Fertility

January 19, 2018
Katie Visco
Sitting on a Bench in the Park

A new study, published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, suggests that living in the same household with a woman's mother or mother-in-law may lower the number of children the woman has. The new research was carried out by Susanne Huber, Patricia Zahourek, and Martin Fieder--all from the Department of Anthropology at the University of Vienna in Austria. 

The researchers studied the effect of living with one's mother or mother-in-law on the young woman's fertility by existing literature, which suggested the opposite: that the presence of the woman's or the husband's mother may increase fertility. To clarify the effect of a mother's and mother-in-law's presence on fertility, Fieder and colleagues examined the medical records of over 2.5 million women from 14 countries across the globe. The women were of reproductive age (between 15 and 34 years old), and the data was gathered from the IPUMS-International census database. In their analysis, the researchers considered a variety of variables, including: the number of children the women had given birth to until the census, the woman's age, an estimation of the woman's reproductive period, as well as whether their mother or mother-in-law was present in the household during the woman's reproductive period. Using these variables, the researchers came up with a generalized linear model that included all of the factors, alongside additional statistical tools meant to account for potential confounders and other variables. 

In the end, the researchers found that in the overwhelming majority of cases, the mothers did not choose to live with either their mother or the mother of their husband. In fact, with the exception of Iraq, across all countries, the majority of women live only with their spouse in the household. After excluding Iraq, the remaining 13 countries offered a sample of wide cultural variety, as they ranged from Pakistan to Zambia, including Romania, Brazil, and the United States, among others. In these countries, the study found, if the women do live with their mothers or mothers-in-law, they are considerably more likely to have fewer children, on average, than women who live with their spouse only.  

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