Year : 2007 | Volume
: 32 | Issue : 2 | Page : 123--127
Participation of adolescents in household decision-making process in Bangladesh
Mizanur M Rahman1, M Kabir2, M Shahidullah3,
1 Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Bangladesh
2 Department of Statistics, Jahangirnagar University, Savar, Dhaka, Bangladesh
3 Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, Shahbag, Dhaka, Bangladesh
Mizanur M Rahman
8/B Indira Road, Tejgaon, Dhaka - 1215
Background: The decision-making authority is one of the ways of measuring the female empowerment, although mere participation in any matter does not corroborate full empowerment of women. However, participation in decision-making process in household matters considers that a female is accounted in the family. Objective: The present study investigated to the extent at which the female adolescents participated in decision-making process in household matters and assessed the factors influencing them. Study Setting: Both rural and urban areas of Bangladesh. Study Design: A quantitative and a qualitative study designs were adopted for this study. Sample Size and Sampling: A cluster sampling technique was used to select the sample. A sample of 3362 female adolescents irrespective of their marital status was selected using a cluster sampling technique. To complement the results found in quantitative analysis, a series of focus group discussions were also conducted among the adolescents. Results: The analysis revealed that a large proportion of the study adolescents did not participate in any decision-making process in their household matters. Only about one-third (31.1%) of the adolescents participated in any household matter; however, the acceptance of their opinions was minimal. In spite of little participation of adolescents in family matters, multivariate logistic regression analysis revealed that older adolescents aged 15-19 years, years of schooling, work status, and the family members with a positive attitude toward female education appeared to be the influencing factors for adolescent participation in household affairs ( P < 0.05 ). Conclusions : The study concluded that gainful economic activities of adolescents and female education are the key elements for participation of female adolescents in different household matters.
|How to cite this article:|
Rahman MM, Kabir M, Shahidullah M. Participation of adolescents in household decision-making process in Bangladesh.Indian J Community Med 2007;32:123-127
|How to cite this URL:|
Rahman MM, Kabir M, Shahidullah M. Participation of adolescents in household decision-making process in Bangladesh. Indian J Community Med [serial online] 2007 [cited 2019 Sep 23 ];32:123-127
Available from: http://www.ijcm.org.in/text.asp?2007/32/2/123/35650
Different national and international organizations have shown interest in child and adolescent participation in socio-cultural activities. This is largely due to ratification of the convention on the rights of the child (CRC). Section 3 of the CRC emphasizes on several key aspects of participation.  Participation can indicate many different things in different circumstances and contexts. In its most basic sense, "adolescent's participation can be defined as adolescent's partaking in and influencing processes, decisions, and activities". In the CRC, participation is a legal right of all adolescents and an end in itself. Because it is a right, it is an inalienable entitlement, not a matter of goodwill or charity. However, is a right, not an obligation? Therefore, participation must always be voluntary and never coerced. One of the universal disadvantages of women that are commonly cited is their under-presentation in the decision-making positions and lack of involvement in decisions in many important spheres. This has been traced primarily to the historically preferential treatment given to boys and men in a broad range of life matters such as decision-making authority. In fact, the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD, 1994) has been considered a major breakthrough insofar it emphasized the more defined framework of women's role in population policy and in general development concerns and identification of gender equality, equity, and women's empowerment as the key indicators of advancing women's concerns in the context of population and development. To address the concerns of the advancing women, ICPD established a consensus on two fundamental basic points-first, that the empowering women is an important end in itself, not only as a human right but also as a potential to enhance human well-being, and second, that empowering women and improving their status are essential ingredients of realizing the full potential of economic, political, and social development and ensuring sustainable development.  Empowering women is usually represented by the participation of women in certain activities such as holding of managerial and administrative positions and the seats in parliament and other elective positions, since these positions are related to higher levels of decision making. Data on participation of individuals in decision-making process at household level is lacking. Considering this view, in this study, an attempt was made to understand to the extent at which a female adolescent can take part in the decision-making process of different issues in household matters and to find out the factors influencing the females to participate in the decision-making process in household matters.
Materials and Methods
This was a cross-sectional study conducted in both rural and urban areas of Bangladesh during 2000. Female adolescents aged 10-19 years constituted the study population. The World Health Organization (WHO) has defined adolescents as individuals in the age range of 10-19 years. A cluster sampling technique was adopted. At the first stage, the mauzas (clusters) were selected, and at the second stage, all the households were covered under the study. A total of 64 clusters (on an average, a cluster had 200 households) were randomly selected from the list of the clusters. All married and unmarried adolescents were selected in a cluster with a ratio of 2:1. A total of 3362 adolescents were included in the sample. Data were collected through a face-to-face interview using a pre-designed interview schedule consisting of questions related to household decision-making process, their participation, and acceptance of their decision etc. Multivariate logistic regression analysis was used to identify the socio-economic and demographic factors significantly related to participation in household matters. Data analysis was performed using the Statistical Package for Social Science (SPSS, version 11.5). Both uni-variate and bi-variate analysis were performed. Logistic regression analysis was used to identify the socio-economic and demographic variables significantly related to participation on selected variables. To complement the quantitative findings, a series of focus group discussions (FGDs) were also conducted among the adolescents. On an average, 4-5 female adolescents having similar backgrounds participated in each FGD. The adolescents were selected from the same cluster, which was not selected for detailed interview, and the adolescents were selected randomly using the sampling frame. Six FGDs were conducted, one in each geographical division, using unstructured guidelines. To maintain the uniformity and consistency of the discussions, trained and experienced female field investigators were recruited and were supported by note takers. The same investigators conducted all FGDs using the same unstructured guidelines to maintain the uniformity of information.
The mean age of the respondents was 16.2 ± 1.9 years with an age range of 10-19 years. Among the respondents, 32.9% were unmarried and 67.1% were married. Their mean years of schooling were 4.7 ± 3.3 years. Among them, 23.3% were illiterate, 35.8% had 1-5 years of schooling, and the remaining had six and above years of schooling. Regarding parental education, more than two-fifths (43.9%) fathers were illiterate as against more than two-thirds (70.7%) mothers, indicating that more mothers were illiterate than the fathers. The mean family size was 5.2 persons. About one-third (30.7%) of the adolescents were currently engaged in different income generating activities other than household work. Brute majority of the respondents were Muslims (89.4%) and only 10.6% were non-Muslims. More than half of the adolescents (56.4%) were from nuclear families and the rest from joint/or extended families (43.6%). The median family income was Tk. 2500.0 and about three-fifths (59.0%) had a family income of less than Tk. 3000.0 [Table 1].
Participation in household decision making
Expressions of expectations about household matters reveal the other ideas that embody the cultural values. It increases the capacity of one's strength of arguments. The cultural values and norms do not permit the younger people to participate in household matters owing to their physical and mental immaturity. It was found that about one-third of the adolescents (1047, 31.1%) participated in decision-making process in household matters.
Pattern of household matters
Among the adolescents who participated in household matters, about two-fifths (39.8%) participated in decision-making process for their personal needs; 37.8% were able to decide what kind of food should be cooked or the meals they preferred; 25.2%, 18.9%, 5.2%, and 1.3% could make decisions with regard to purchasing their favorite items or cosmetics, their educational materials, their desire to service or work, and participate in other family matters, respectively.
We have limited access to make any decision making process. Only in limited household work like choice of meals (even in most of the cases it is determined by mother-in-law or other elder members) or mere purchase of goods for personal use such as cosmetics. Participation in decision making for purchasing valuable goods like jewellery or any other things joint decision is preferable.
… Married adolescents (FGDs)
Acceptance of decision
Although about one-third of the adolescents participated in household matters, the acceptance of their opinions was minimal; only 7.0% of their opinions were accepted, less than two-thirds (62.3%) of their decisions were occasionally accepted, and in 30.7% cases the decisions were very rarely accepted.
Reasons for not participating in the decision-making process
Regarding the reasons for not participating in the decision-making process, more than four-fifths (81.7%) opined that the seniors or guardians did not find the need to take opinions from the adolescents. Of all, 9.2% of the adolescents did not feel liberal enough to share their opinions regarding the household matters, and 5.0% mentioned that they were considered immature to give opinions in such matters.
Correlates of adolescent's decision-making participation: Multivariate analysis
Undoubtedly, participation implies decision making and is viewed as a strategy for human development as it is closely linked to the promotion of leadership, i.e., ensuring transforming capacities at the social level, that empower adolescents, adolescent groups, communities and the country to get involved in the process towards individual and collective developments.  Scales and Leffen opined that fruitful participation increases the competence and achievements, positive relationships with adults and peers, clear structure and opportunities for self definition, creative expression, recreation and meaningful participation in family, school, and community.  Considering this view, this study examined the relationship of the adolescent participation in decision-making process in household matters with selective socio-demographic characteristics and personal factors pertinent to women autonomy. [Table 2] shows the adolescent participation in decision-making process in the context of demographic variables. Bi-variate analysis revealed that the age of the adolescents, their current marital status, years of schooling, father's level of education, work status of the adolescents, family size, monthly family income, and positive attitude towards female education have shown significant association with adolescent's participation in decision-making process in household matters ( P ). However, no statistically significant association was found between residence, religion, mother's education, and type of family and adolescent's participation in decision-making process ( P > 0.05 ). To assess the factors influencing the adolescent's participation in decision making in household matters, multi-variate logistic regression analysis was carried out in which the dependent variable, 'whether the adolescent participated in any decision making process in household matters' was dichotomized (yes/no). For prediction of influencing factors for participation in decision-making process, variables that showed significant association with adolescent's participation in household matters in bi-variate analysis, were entered into logistic regression analysis. Out of 12 variables, 8 variables that showed significant association in bi-variate analysis were included in the logistic regression model. The analysis revealed that age of the adolescents, years of schooling, work status, and positive attitude towards female education appeared to be important predictors for adolescent's participation in household matters ( P ). Adolescent's years of schooling appeared to be an important predictor for participation in household matters and it was 3.0 times higher among the adolescents having 1-5 years of schooling and 3.9 times higher among the adolescents with 6 years or more of schooling. The work status of the adolescents appeared to be another predictor for participation in the household decision-making process. Adolescent's participation was 1.7 times higher among the adolescents who were engaged in any gainful work. Although, the contribution of the adolescents to the family income was minimal, their work status ensured their voice in the family. The analysis also revealed that older adolescents aged 15-19 years were 1.6 times more likely to participate in the decision-making process in the household matters than their younger counterparts. Most importantly, the family members having optimistic attitude towards female education (as expressed by adolescents) were 1.4 times more likely to participate in decision-making process.
…..In our society, women do not have any value, women have no power to take decision; it is culturally defined that men has the authority to control everything
… Married adolescents (FGDs).
….If an adolescent is educated, she can make positive contribution to the family, not only she can shape the family, if she has money in her hand, the money gives her voice, which ultimately can control the family.
… Married and unmarried adolescents (FGDs).
Growing body of researches support the idea, that improvement of women status is an important indicator of development. The empowerment of women is generally accepted as a crucial element in any strategy seeking to solve social, economic, and environmental problems. Past studies have confirmed that the women have limited control over material and other resources; restricted access to knowledge and information; constrained authority to make independent decisions; they lack physical mobility; and are unable to forge equitable power relationships within the families.  Raymundo cited the status of women in five Asian countries and revealed a considerable variation in measures of power and autonomy, which include decision-making process of the women in the economic and personal spheres. In the more patriarchal and less socio-economically developed societies, such as India and Pakistan, fewer women making decisions than the women in Philippines and Thailand, and they are tied closely to their societies and culture and have lesser say in the individual purchases in the household. For example, 86.5% of Filipino women were reported as having a major say in deciding on the major purchases in the household, compared with 16.5% in Pakistan. In Thailand, 55% of women are able to make decisions such as choice of jewellery to be purchased by them, compared with the lower level of 16% of women in India and Pakistan.  The present study revealed a very poor level of participation of women in decision-making process and that their decisions were seldom accepted.
Hadi opined that women involvement in income generating activities showed a significant association with their reproductive decision. The programme participation appeared to have a positive influence on joint-decision making with regard to child bearing.  Although this study was not designed to explore the reproductive decision, it determined a positive association in household decision-making process. However, Kantor found that in India, women's contribution in the family through income does not always predict greater say in property-related decisions.  This study revealed a positive association of work status of the adolescents with participation in decision-making process; however, the family income did not predict the participation in decision making in household matters ( P > 0.05 ). Kantor opined that the women gained their status in the family through ageing, i.e., after attaining a certain age the women developed voice and older women had a significantly greater likelihood of being involved in different decision-making processes. These findings corroborate with the findings of this study and this might be due to the fact that older adolescents are more conversant with other family members. Jejeebhoy opined that access to education and the years of schooling completed are believed to be powerful predictors of many subsequent behavior and attitudes.  The study revealed that adolescents having schooling of 6 years and more had 3.9 times more capability in decision-making process. Hunte, in a qualitative study in Afghanistan, found that the male members dominated the household decision-making processes. Although in some of the issues, younger members in the family could sometimes participate; however, their decisions were generally not considered. In that context, the participation of young adults was very negligible and in most of the cases it was dubious. 
The present study demonstrates that the changing perceptions of different households are possible. Additionally, it is argued that the productive role of women and increased level of education can create environment for them to think, make their own choices, and participate in decision-making process in different matters of household with their spouses and with other family members. Opportunity to be educated and participate in the productive activities will empower them to think when they should marry; whether they should have children; when they should have children, and have the negotiating power whether or not to use contraception in case of need. All these have important policy implications on reproductive health of the adolescents. The participation of all adolescents should be respected as of equal value although adolescents have had different abilities of understanding, will require different levels of support and will contribute in different ways. Furthermore, it is important that all adolescents ensure their full participation in their respective capacities and not be treated as "invisible" members of the family. The study suggests that in economic, cultural, and productive activities, the participation of educated females in different household matters needs to be ensured.
The research was funded by a grant from Social Science Research Council (SSRC), Ministry of Planning, Government of the Peoples Republic of Bangladesh. We acknowledge Director, SSRC for financial assistance.
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