Changes in traditional practices in contemporary demographic regimes in the Middle East and South and Southeast Asia: Three essays

Rania Tfaily, University of Pennsylvania


The three essays in this dissertation examine demographic and sociological processes related to family and gender in countries in the Middle East and South and Southeast Asia. The first paper looks at family formation---specifically first-cousin marriages---in Egypt, Jordan, Turkey and Yemen. Previous studies framed the practice of cousin marriages as a problem and restricted the analyses to examining its consequences on children's health. Using regression and event history analyses, I examine the correlates of matrilateral and patrilateral first-cousin marriages and compare fertility measures and the odds of divorce by biological relationship between spouses. The paper argues that first-cousin marriages differ from marriages to non-relatives in at least two important characteristics: they last longer but are less sexually intimate. The second paper examines attitudes towards family dissolution in communities in India, Malaysia, Pakistan and the Philippines. Using Item Response Theory, the paper tests the assumption that survey items that are equivalently worded are understood in the same way in different settings. The paper also uses logistic regression analyses to identify demographic and socio-economic variables that are associated with greater likelihood of acceptability of spouses' separation. The results indicate that most of the studied items have the same meaning within similar cultural/linguistic countries but not within heterogeneous settings. The paper shows that respondents' attitudes towards separation vary by respondents' gender and sex of the item object in question. The third paper studies the impact of gender and family structure on educational attainment of Egyptian children. The paper uses detailed information on birth order, sex and birth dates of siblings to examine the effects of a child's gender and number and sex composition of siblings on his/her grade-specific progression ratios and school enrollment rate. The results of logistic regression models show that the number of siblings has strong and consistent effects on school enrollment and continuation. All else equal, having many siblings, especially younger brothers, decreases the likelihood of attending school and successfully completing grades. Evidence of discrimination against girls in terms of education is mixed, and it varies by place of residence.

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Recommended Citation

Tfaily, Rania, "Changes in traditional practices in contemporary demographic regimes in the Middle East and South and Southeast Asia: Three essays" (2006). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3211154.