AGE AT MARRIAGE AND FERTILITY BEHAVIOUR MADAN MOHAN PATNAIK Age at...
AGE AT MARRIAGE AND FERTILITY BEHAVIOUR
MADAN MOHAN PATNAIK
Age at marriage to a great extent is found to be an important demographic variable to
influence the fertility behaviour of couples. The study tries to examine the hypothesis that
the mean age at marriage changes with change in the socio-economic background of the
couples. The study reveals further that, irrespective of the socio-economic characteristics of
the couples, the increase in the mean age at marriage brings about a spectacular decline in
the mean fertility of the couples.
Dr. Madan Mohan Patnaik is Research Officer (Statistics), at the Institute of Public
Administration, Patna University, Patna.
Age at marriage is considered to have an to 16.1 years by 1961, and to 17.2 years in
important bearing on the fertility behaviour 1972 (Goyal, 1965). But there are still many
of couples. Since practically all births in regions in the country, particularly in rural
India occur within marriage, total fertility areas, where the age at marriage is very
is closely associated with the marriage low. The slow increase in the age at mar-
pattern and age at marriage. Marriage, as riage for females during the last 60 years
an institution, is deeply entrenched in the permeated all sections of the population.
Indian culture and it is considered to be the There have been efforts in recent years and
duty of every Indian to get married. Thus, in the past to raise the age at marriage by
marriage in India is not only universal but legislation. The pertinent question often
it has been found to take place even at early discussed is whether the rise in the age at
ages. Traditionally, Indian marriages are marriage would produce a significant drop
mostly arranged by the parents. Although in the level of fertility.
this traditional practice has been changing
Before debating this aspect it is pertinent
slowly in recent years, arranged marriages to understand the meaning of the word
are still very common in India. The Hindu "marriage" as used in the context of Indian
scriptures urged the parents to give away Society. In many parts of India the perfor-
their daughters in marriages "while she mance of wedding is not invariably follow-
still goes naked" and warned them not to ed by the cohabitation of the couple
keep the maiden in their home after she had and the consummation of the mar-
attained puberty (Kapadia, 1956). Society riage ceremony. There is a formal
expected the girl to be married early be-
marriage ceremony which is followed by
cause the correct ideal of chastity required nuptials called "Gauna" or "vida" and it
that the maiden should not feel love for a is only after this ceremony that the newly
man other than the one to whom she might married couple begins living together. How-
eventually get married (Ketkar, 1909). An ever, when a girl is married several years
unmarried girl is expected to maintain her after menarche, the two rites are usually
virginity till the time of her marriage, and performed together. The time of nuptial
"marriage must be desired before any scope rites marks the consummation of the union,
for suspicion regarding the virginity of a and represents the date of "effective mar-
girl presented itself (Samuel, 1965).
riage." Figures of age at effective marriage
Because of these factors, the age at mar-
are not available for all India but it is
riage in India has been very low. The mean fairly certain that the mean age is 17 years
age at marriage for females according to (Agarwala, 1965).
an unofficial figure was around 13 years
It is the age of "effective marriage"
during the decade 1901-1911. It increased which has relevance for the demographic

240
MADAN MOHAN PATNAIK
effect of postponing the marriage age. ing up the schedules the head of house-hold
A rise in the age at marriage does not neces-
is contacted only to provide the desired
sarily mean a rise in the age of effective information. The selection of respondents is
marriage, and, as the age at marriage rises, done in Patna town and in an adjacent
the interval between the date of marriage village Nagarnaussa which is situated at a
and effective marriage is shortened. Indeed, distance of 40 kilometres from Patna.
the rise in age at marriage in India during
The average age at marriage in the pre-
the last five decades has been accompanied sent paper is determined by using median
by near elimination of the traditional time-
which is one of the important measures of
lag between formal ceremonies of marriage central tendency. The mean fertility is de-
and the start of cohabitation (Visaria and termined in terms of average number of
Jain, 1976). Scholars are sceptical of the children ever born. The technique of ana-
likelihood of a significant reduction of ferti-
lysis of variance has also been used here
lity to be achieved by raising the age at to study the significant variation in the
marriage.
mean fertilities by age at marriage and
Most of the studies done in this area of socio-economic characteristics of couples.
investigation point out that the postponment
of age at marriage of females to 18 or 19
FINDINGS
years will not produce a significant decline Age of marriage and Socio-economic
either of completed family size or of the variables
birth rate (Rele, 1967; Mazumdar and Das
Gupta, 1969; Krishnan, 1971; Venkata-
The age at marriage may vary from per-
charya, 1970; Talwar, 1967).
son to person depending upon their socio-
The average age at marriage for females economic characteristics. Variations in the
possibly varies according to various socio-
median age at marriage are evident when
economic characteristics of communities and couples are differentiated on the basis of
as a consequence fertility behaviour may place of residence, religion, caste, educa-
vary.
tion, occupation, income and employment
The objective of the present paper is, status of women. Variation in the median
therefore, to study (1) the variations in the age at marriage with socio-economic cha-
age at marriage with socio-economic charac-
racteristics of couples has statistically been
teristics of the couples under study, and found to be significant as evidenced by F.
then (2) the fertility is analysed in terms of test. Rural female spouses have lower
their age at marriage and socio-economic median age at marriage than urban female
characteristics.
spouses. Similarly the rural male spouses
are found to possess lower median age at
Methodology
marriage than urban male spouses. No such
marked variation in the median age at mar-
The present study is based on a sample riage is observed among religious groups.
of 800 couples. The technique of purposive However, the Hindu women are found to
sampling method is adopted here to select possess slightly higher median age at mar-
the couples keeping in view the idea of riage than Muslim women. There is found
proportional representation of the couples a marked variation in the median age at
by their socio-economic characteristics. The marriage of couples when they are classifi-
instrument used for data collection is a well ed by their caste. The median age at mar-
devised questionnaire. For purpose of fill-
riage for male spouses are found to be

AGE AT MARRIAGE AND FERTILITY BEHAVIOUR
241
TABLE 1
TABLE 2
MEDIAN A G E AT MARRIAGE ACCORDING TO E D U -
MEDIAN A G E AT MARRIAGE OF C O U P L E S ACCORD-
CATIONAL L E V E L OF FEMALE SPOUSES AND
ING TO PLACE OF RESIDENCE, RELIGION AND CASTE
OCCUPATIONAL L E V E L OF M A L E S P O U S E S
21.78, 19.53 and 16.16 respectively for
upper, backward and scheduled castes. The
corresponding medians for female spouses
are 18.99, 16.56 and 13.10 respectively.
A strong association has been indicated
between median age at marriage and edu-
Although a direct association between
cation. The age at marriage is found to the median age at marriage and economic
decline with increase in the level of educa-
status of family has not been observed but
tional attainments of couples. When couples there is a tendency for those in the higher
are classified by the educational level of income group to marry late. Female and
female spouses, the medians range from
12.23 years for male spouses and 10.36
years for female spouses in the illiterate
TABLE 3
group to 23.00 years for male spouses and
MEDIAN A G E AT MARRIAGE ACCORDING TO
21.53 for female spouses in the category of
ECONOMIC STATUS OF FAMILY
post-graduates. When couples are classified
by the occupation of male spouses, it has
been observed that median age at marriage
ranges from 16. 53 for male spouses and
12.56 for female spouses in the occupa-
tional category of peons, darwans etc., to
22.59 years for male spouses and 20.13
years for wives in the professional group
consisting of doctors, engineers, lecturers,
advocates and others.

242
MADAN MOHAN PATNAIK
male spouses in the income groups of cline sharply as the age at marriage of
Rs. 1500-1999 have highest medians 20.53 female spouses increases. The mean number
years and 21.51 years respectively. As the
income of family changes from the cate-
TABLE 5
gory of Rs. 200-499 to the category of
MEAN FERTILITY ACCORDING TO A G E AT
'Rs. 500-999', the increase in the median
MARRIAGE OF FEMALE SPOUSES
age at marriage for female spouses is found
to be of the order of 38 percent. The me-
Age at Marriage
Number
Mean Standard
ferti-
devia-
dian age at marriage for employed female
lity
tion
spouses is found to be more than that for Under 15
5.06
those who are not employed. The higher
186
2.25
15-19
356
4.45
2.20
TABLE 4
20-24
217
3.31
1.15
25 & above
41
2.92
1.73
MEDIAN A G E AT MARRIAGE ACCORDING TO
EMPLOYMENT STATUS OF FEMALE SPOUSES
of children ever born is 5.06 for those
spouses who are married before reaching 15
years of their age. 4.45 for those
who are married in the age group
of (15-19) years, 3.31 for those who are
married in the age group of (20-24) years
and 2.92 for those whose marriage took
place at the age of 25 years and above.
From the analysis it is gathered that as
median age at marriage among employed the age at marriage of female spouses
female spouses may again be attributed to changes from the category of 'under 15
the impact of education. Thus from the years' to the categories of '(15-19) years',
above discussions it can be concluded that '20-24) years' and '25 years and above', the
age at marriage of couples changes with reductions in the mean fertility levels are
change in their socio-economic background. found to be of the order of 13 per cent, 35
per cent, and 42 per cent respectively. This
Age at Marriage and Fertility
shows that if the minimum age at marriage
for female spouses is postponed beyond 20
It is now proposed to study the change years, there can be achieved a remarkable
in mean fertility of couples according to reduction in the future fertility in the state
change in age at marriage of female spouses of Bihar.
on the basis of their socio-economic charac-
The mean fertility is again found to be
teristics. For the purpose of our analysis, highly associated with age at marriage when
the female spouses have been classified into the couples are differentiated by their
four categories according to their age at caste. When the age at marriage of female
marriage, i.e., "Below 15 years", "(15-19) spouses increased from 'under 15 years' to
years",, "(20-24) years" and "25 years and '20-24/ years, the mean fertility has been
above".
found to have declined by 27 per cent, 28
A strong positive correlation between per cent and 30 per cent for upper caste
fertility and age at marriage has been backward caste and scheduled caste res-
observed. The mean fertility tends to de-
pectively. Thus, irrespective of caste affi-

AGE AT MARRIAGE AND FERTILITY BEHAVIOUR
243
TABLE 6(A)
TABLE 7(A)
MEAN FERTILITY ACCORDING TO CASTE AND A G E
MEAN FERTILITY ACCORDING TO PLACE OR
AT MARRIAGE OF FEMALE SPOUSES
RESIDENCE AND A G E AT MARRIAGE
TABLE 7(B)
ANALYSIS OF VARIANCE TABLE
TABLE 6(B)
ANALYSIS OF VARIANCE TABLE
Thus, if female spouses, irrespective of
their place of residence, are motivated to
marry in the age group of (20-24) years,
there may be achieved a remarkable fall in
* Degrees of freedom.
the future fertility of the State.
Irrespective of the educational attain-
liation of the couples, the fertility tends to ments of female spouses, the mean fertility
decline sharply as the age at marriage for bears a negative relation with age at mar-
female spouses increases.
riage. Even for the illiterate group, the mean
There seems to be a close connection number of children ever born has declined
between fertility and age at marriage when from 5.60 for those whose marriage took
couples are differentiated by their place of place under 15 years to 4.02 for those
residence. With the increase in the age at whose marriage took place in the age group
marriage of female spouses from 'under 15 of (20-24) years. It is observed further that
years' to '(20-24) years', the mean fertility as the marriage age increases from 'under
has been observed to have reduced by 27 15 years' to '(20-24) years', the mean fer-
per cent for urban couples and by 30 per tility declines by 28 per cent, 29 per cent
cent for rural couples.
and 35 per cent respectively for illiterate,

244
MADAN MOHAN PATNAIK
TABLE 8(A)
TABLE 9(B)
MEAN FERTILITY ACCORDING TO EDUCATIONAL
ANALYSIS OF VARIANCE TABLE
LEVEL AND AGE AT MARRIAGE OF FEMALE SPOUSES
TABLE 8(B)
ANALYSIS OF VARIANCE TABLE
at marriage also has caused a positive im-
pact on the fertility performance in the
lowest category of occupation consisting of
peons, darwans, etc. As the age at marriage
of female spouses is found to increase from
'under 15 years' to (20-24) years,' the mean
fertility tends to decline by 19 per cent,
6 per cent, 19 per cent, 21 per cent, 30 per
cent, respectively for the categories of 'office
workers', 'professionals', 'cultivators', 'shop-
keepers' and 'peons', darwans, etc. From
literate upto matric and college attended the analysis it may be concluded that if
female spouses.
high fertility groups namely, 'Cultivators',
Regardless of the occupational status of 'shop-keepers' and 'peons', darwans, etc.
male spouses, the mean fertility tends to are somehow motivated to adopt (20-24)
decline as the age at marriage of female years as the best marriage age group for
spouses increases. The increase in the age female spouses, their fertility can be re-
TABLE 9(A)
MEAN FERTILITY ACCORDING TO OCCUPATIONAL STATUS OF MALE SPOUSES AND AGE AT MARRIAGE OF
FEMALE SPOUSES
Occupation
Office
Profe-
Culti-
Shop-
Peons,
Age at marriage
workers
ssionals
vators
keepers
darwans
etc.
Under 15
3.96(48)
2.67(12)
5.23(50)
4.28(13)
5.73(63)
15-19
3.66(74)
2.62(31)
4.62(67)
4.06(35)
5.36(149)
20-24
3.19(60)
2.50(36)
4.22(36)
3.39(13)
3.98(71)
25 & above
2.45(18)
2.01(7)
3.74(7)
3.38(6)
3.33(3)

AGE AT MARRIAGE AND FERTILITY BEHAVIOUR
245
duced to a great extent in the near future spouses. As the age at marriage increases
which may have a significant impact on the from under 15 years to '(20-24) years', the
check of population growth in the state of mean fertility declines by 18 per cent, 25
Bihar.
per cent, 28 per cent, 21 per cent, 27 per
The mean fertility is again found to cent, 36 per cent respectively for the income
bear a negative correlation with the age at groups 'under Rs. 200', '(Rs. 200-499)',
marriage when couples are characterised by (Rs. 500-999)', (Rs. 1000-1499)' (Rs. 1500-
their economic status measured in terms of 1999)' and 'Rs. 2000' and more.
their monthly family income. Even for the
Similarly, irrespective of the employment
TABLE 10(A)
MEAN FERTILITY ACCORDING TO FAMILY INCOME AND AGE AT MARRIAGE
TABLE 10(B)
status of female spouses, the mean ferti-
lity bears a negative relation with age at
ANALYSIS OF VARIANCE TABLE
marriage. As the marriage age of female
TABLE 11
MEAN FERTILITY ACCORDING TO EMPLOYMENT
STATUS AND AGE AT MARRIAGE OF FEMALE
SPOUSES
lowest income group, i.e., families having
monthly income of less than Rs. 200/-, the
mean fertility tends to decline sharply with
increase in the age at marriage of female spouses is postponed from 'under 15 years'

246
MADAN MOHAN PATNAIK
to '(20-24) years', the mean number of chil-
population, particularly in the illiterate and
dren ever born has been found to have low economic groups, and in the 'cultiva-
declined by 30.52 per cent and 29.50 per tors', 'shop-keepers' and 'peons, darwans,
cent respectively for non-working and work-
etc. groups which account for the prevalence
ing women.
of high fertility levels in the society. In this
regard the finding of Dr. Charles, C. West-
Conclusion
toff of Princeston University (1975) is
worth mentioning here. According to his
From the foregoing analysis, it can ma-
finding the age at marriage is the best
nifestly be inferred that postponment of single prediction of fertility in the U.S.A.,
marriage to a late age is one of the most as well as in developing countries because
important factors to effect a change in high it combines mutually reinforcing biological
fertility groups of the society. The findings and sociological selective factors such as
further suggest that the age group (20-24) fecundability and education. In other words,
years can be adopted as the best marriage high natural fertility and lack of higher
age group for all the cross sections of the education both of which are characteristic
society to achieve a remarkable fall in the of girls who marry young, combine to pro-
fertility levels of all the sub-groups of the duce large families.
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